Peter Hammond and the Labour Party’s promise at the last local election was to keep the city’s home care service “in-house”. We might have understood from this there would be no more privatisation of Bristol city council’s home care service under a Labour council. An idea that Bristol Labour’s union friends were keen to put to their home care staff members in writing:
We have established the need for a Council to commit to its inhouse service, for the leadership of the council to commit to deliver services directly and respect its own workforce and the unique contribution we make to the communities of this City.
This looks to be in tatters tonight. Green councillor Charlie Bolton reports on his blog:
It appears that the proposals being worked on [for the home care service under Hammond’s supervision] did not include ‘not privatising home care’ as a key driver. I specifically asked this, and that was the answer I got.
Officers were also, again, unable to say what proportion of Home Care will be privatised as a result of these proposals.
This is not what Labour promised the electorate and is not what the unions told their members in May is it? The promise then was apparently not to privatise any more of the home care service. Why has this changed?
Now papers have theoretically appeared for a meeting on 20 November of the Care and Communities Scrutiny Commission, a meeting where elected councillors (and the public) can scrutinise the decisions of the relevant executive member – Peter Hammond. And this is what we find:
13. HOME CARE PROJECT: FINANCIAL ANALYSIS
Time limit for this item – 20 minutes
– deferred. Questions will be taken at the meeting.
(Report of the Director of Adult Community Care)
Normally there’d be a link from this item so that the public and councillors can access – what should be – public papers. Not this time. Hammond’s proposals on home care have been deliberately “deferred”, which seems to mean that nobody is able to see the extremely sensitive and controversial financial details of Hammond’s proposals for the future of the home care service.
Instead he – or rather the fall girl, head of social services, Annie Hudson – will take questions from councillors on the day. Although they will have no idea, in advance, what these financial proposals for the future of Bristol’s home care service are. This makes the job of properly scrutinising them difficult, if not impossible.
Hammond’s actions are an unusual interpretation of Helen Holland’s promise that “transparency in decision-making was absolutely paramount” for her new council back in May. Indeed Hammond’s process rather resembles a complete abrogation of the city’s democratic processes. What is in this report? And why won’t he let anyone see it in advance?
As we always knew they would have to, the Labour party look set to break clear promises that won them power in May. Although the suspicion is Hammond will attempt to fall-back on his non-committal statements in the council chamber back in May when he shamelessly dodged direct questions on his intentions for home care:
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”.
The Bristol Blogger, It’s the Holland and Hammond show! May 22 2007
Whether Hammond gets away with his crude efforts at wordplay is down to Bunter Eddy’s benign and becalmed Conservative group, who we thought put this Labour minority administration in in May in order to keep the rest of the home care service “in-house”. Eddy and the rest of his party, if they really give a toss about the city’s electorate and the council’s home care workers, should be calling for a vote of no confidence if Hammond backslides on this. But will they?
And where this leaves Alun Beynon, the T&G bureaucrat who tirelessly sold his members the idea that Hammond and Labour were the solution to the threatened home care privatisation, is another mystery. The fact he also got his T&G members to directly campaign for his son – now Labour Councillor Sean Beynon – at the local elections on the basis that he would be saving home care – and their jobs – from privatisation begins to look even more dodgy now than it did then.
The Beynon’s are nothing short of a disgrace to the Labour movement.