The first signs of the chaos about to be unleashed by new social services boss Peter Hammond emerged this week after his plan to reconstitute the ‘Adult Social Care Select Committee’ was hastily cancelled via the pages of The Evening Cancer.
The idea to reconvene the select committee to “reconsider” the privatisation of the council’s home care service was, of course, originally proposed by the Lib Dems at the last full council meeting and voted down by Labour, the Tories and the Greens as an inadequate response.
Labour’s plan to steal the Lib Dem policy was first revealed by less-than-impressed Green councillor Charlie Bolton on his blog on Tuesday. The move was then confirmed by new Lib Dem councillor Alex Woodman on Wednesday along with audible howls of Lib Dem derision.
Hammond, perhaps realising that pursuing a Lib Dem proposal he had rubbished just a week earlier may not be the smartest political move, then rushed to The Cancer to issue an immediate denial that he had ever even considered setting up such a committee:
“I can also state clearly there will not be a select committee to oversee the progress of home care as I feel that would hold things up.”
Utter rubbish. A brief look at the city council website reveals that an ‘Adult Social Care Select Committee’ to be chaired by Hammond’s colleague John Bees was set up to be active from 22 May 2007. So it seems Hammond is telling The Cancer politically expedient porkies that the newspaper seems only too happy to print.
In place of this hurriedly cancelled select committee, Hammond told The Cancer, “What we will be doing is going back and consulting with users and workers and looking at how we can improve the service and increase levels of service.”
This is actually quite a revelation. As more informed observers have always suspected, the Labour group, despite election promises to keep homecare “in-house”, don’t actually have a plan of any kind for home care at present beyond uncosted aspirations. Although Hammond has at least now deemed to set out a vague process for obtaining this plan.
Quite how Hammond’s process will differ from a select committee process is not something Hammond’s bothers to mention. Neither is it explored by The Cancer, despite the fact they assigned three journalists the task of copying out Hammond’s press release.
Certainly a select committee would consult with users and workers to look at how the service can improve and increase its levels of service. Indeed, it seems that this already happened at last year’s select committee – again chaired by Hammond’s colleague Bees – that concluded that the service needed to be privatised.
A conclusion later rejected by Bees and Hammond when they realised it may be electorally expedient to obtain the support and cash of their trade union friends and oppose the privatisation plans they had rubber-stamped.
The fact is Hammond’s latest proposal differs from working through a select committee in only one respect. Rather than the results of any consultation being considered by an all-party group, the results will be considered by just Peter Hammond!
This hardly sits well with Hammond’s leader Helen Holland’s recent statement that “transparency in decision-making was absolutely paramount” for her new administration.
So paramount in fact that any decision on home care by her administration will now be made behind closed doors rather than through an open, all-party committee! Brilliant. Very transparent Helen.
Part Two – What happened to Labour’s commitment to “in-house” home care?
Part Three – The John Bees’ Guide to money
Part Four – Why hasn’t the Parrott squawked in the night?