Many people will be delighted to read of Rochdale Council’s Cabinet decision to remove the highly controversial Supported Living Group Homes proposals from the Council’s savings programme.
Woman with learning disabilities sought a Judicial Review of Council’s Supported Living Consultation, with Mathieu Culverhouse, a public law expert at Irwin Mitchell, saying: “This is a victory for all those who would have been unfairly affected by the changes that Rochdale Council was proposing.
“The families of those affected are happy that the Council has withdrawn its proposals and has confirmed that before proceeding with any such proposals in future it will engage with those affected and ensure that they are given a full and fair picture of what the proposals will mean for them in practice.”
Special thanks should go to the local media for it’s coverage of the issue and vigils for the part it played in bringing the issue into the wider public domain, as well as to the recently published letter raising the profile of the campaign at a national level in Weekly Welfare.
Whilst we do need to keep clear in our minds that the driver for these cuts comes from the Westminster government I’d like to take some issue with the Director of Social Care who said at the meeting: “The recent debate about reducing costs has become entangled with debate about reducing choice.”
If, as she claims, the Council Consultation process: “allowed some to misunderstand the proposals and unfortunately left some with the wrong idea”, it surely begs the questions of both the quality and inherent robustness, (not least the clarity), of the Council’s Consultation in the first place?
As a consequence I think we all need to be quite clear that any ‘misunderstanding of the proposals’ or ‘wrong idea’ lays with the person or persons who drafted them in the first place.
The 70% who strongly disagreed with the proposals during the consultation period did not ‘ misunderstand’ for a second . They properly understood only too well exactly what the council was about to try and force through despite fierce local opposition. And objected accordingly.
Equally it is deeply concerning that some legitimate opponents & campaigners saw legal action as their only viable alternative to bring this matter to closure in their favour.
Still at the end of the day a just and hugely popular decision was arrived at to remove what campaigners had wanted to be ‘thrown out’ as not fit for purpose since it was proposed by Council all along. One can’t help thinking this was all so unnecessary had people with learning disabilities been afforded the due human rights, respect, dignity and priority they deserved from the very beginning.
Speaking to some of the Councillors entering the Town Hall at the last protest against these proposals it was abundantly clear to myself and others that they were not “bad people” but rather “good people being forced into making bad decisions”.
Some of them it was clear were deeply embarrassed by such proposals, felt totally unwilling to defend the indefensible and did so with increasingly heavy hearts.
I’m certain nobody with any ounce of integrity or self respect goes into politics wanting to make cuts to vulnerable people in wheelchairs or to vote to take away their human rights and hard won liberties.
It’s reasonable to assume also that enlightened self interest mindful of future litigation, rather than ethical considerations alone , will have played a significant part in arriving at this decision since the report to Cabinet Member with responsibility for Social Care pointed out :
‘7. Legal Implications
7.1 At the time of writing the consultation process is subject to a judicial review claim on behalf of one individual. Within these judicial review proceedings we have given a commitment to do the following:
(a) to remove the proposal from the decision making process at budget setting Council on 1st March 2017′.
Those opposed to more cuts to vital services, especially to Adult Social Care, need to maintain and intensify pressure on our Council and our councillors. We can not afford for a moment to let them squirm off the rusty hook some of them have clumsily spiked themselves on.
It does not sit well with the silent majority of Labour supporters & the population at large, that this Labour Council may well go down in the history books as one of the most ‘unpopular in local history’; that they will be remembered, for a very, very long time, as the councillors that proposed cuts to Learning Disabilities of £1.4m from the budget, then voted in favour of increased spending for themselves, by increasing their own personal allowances by 34%/51% to a projected £1.2m from the same budget.
Not a good footnote in posterity’s historical record for any councillor expecting to be re-elected?
Also though the Council Report document rightly makes mention of NHS & Community Care Act 1990 and the Care Act, I noticed that very little, if any, mention is made of the Human Rights aspect of those individuals affected by such proposals. This glaring omission needs some considerable future scrutiny to ensure the same mistakes are not made once again by any future Council proposals.
This whole flawed consultation fiasco without doubt raises several legitimate and pressing questions of local democratic accountability, competence and transparency. Reflecting very badly as it does on some individuals in Rochdale Council that should require measured and honest public responses in due course?
Moving forward, let’s hope lessons have been learned – by us all?