Bristol Labour Party this evening took minority control of Bristol City Council with the support of the Conservative Party.
The Tories and Labour both rejected a last minute climbdown from Steve Comer’s Liberal Democrats – who promised to reconsider the privatisation of home care – in favour of a minority Labour cabinet.
The new leader of Bristol City Council is Helen Holland, her deputy and Executive for Adult Care Services is Peter Hammond and the Executive running the finances is John Bees.
Those with longer memories may recognise this team in an ever-so slightly different form from 2004 – 2005. Then Peter Hammond was leader, Holland the deputy and Bees controlled the finances.
And if memory serves correctly, this is the team that ran up an £18m debt in the social services department and had to call in two expensive consultants to explain to them how to run the department. They also had to pay off former Social Services boss, Bill McKitterick, to go away and never discuss their years of hopelessly incompetent management of the service.
The whole sorry mess culminated in the whole of the council – Labour, Tory and Lib Dem – unaminously accepting the principles of ‘The Parrott Report’. A straightforward Blairite blueprint for the privatisation of adult care services in the city – including the home care service.
That long memory might also recall that this “new” deputy leader and executive for adult services, Peter Hammond – then leader – actually proposed the report and praised the Parrott Report to the full council in that characteristically limp-wristed manner of his.
But it seems Hammond the Blairite privatiser is a thing of the past. Tonight we were treated to Hammond, man of the people and saviour of the home care service. Or were we?
In yet another ill-tempered, bad mannered and skin-crawlingly embarrassing attempt at debate, the Labour Party singularly failed to outline a clear position on home care and instead used the occasion to – again – grandstand for their carefully assembled audience of home care workers and trade unionists.
Instead of a simple commitment to keep the home care service in-house as they have appeared to promise, we were treated to vague, nice-sounding empty promises about home care:
“We will get it on a firm footing”; “there will be a level of stability”; “there will be a proper solution”; “it will be viable, workable, cost effective and fit for purpose”; “we will work with users, families, carers and the workforce”; “we will take a position on home care”.
All well and good. And this seemed to go down well with the home care workers and unions, who clearly have a level of trust in local politicians that is unwise. But are Labour keeping home care in-house as they promised?
We don’t know because Labour steadfastly refused to answer this question constantly put to them by the Lib Dems and they even encouraged the home care workers to shout down the questioners.
This may turn out to be a big mistake by the home care workers and their union backers.
(Cartoon by Evelyn Post. Evelyn Post is The Bristol Blogger’s resident cartoonist. He has a woman’s name)