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‘Political voting’ denied as meeting fails to halt Devon care cuts

PUBLISHED: 18:02 30 June 2014 | UPDATED: 18:02 30 June 2014

Oakwell at Bickington is scheduled for closure in spring 2015.

Oakwell at Bickington is scheduled for closure in spring 2015.

Archant

‘They did not want to listen’ says independent as scrutiny meeting fails to prevent closure of care homes and day care centres.

A last ditch effort to stave off closures of care homes and day care centres in North Devon at a special meeting on Thursday has failed to make a difference.

Independent and Liberal Democrat councillors had ‘called in’ the county council’s controversial decision to a meeting of the peoples’ scrutiny committee at County Hall in Exeter.

But five separate motions aimed at mitigating the council’s efforts to cut £110 million from services were all defeated by the committee’s Conservative majority.

The council intends to close Beech House in South Molton, Burrow House in Ilfracombe, Lydiate Lodge at Lynton, Fairlea in Northam and Oakwell at Bickington.

Of the 11 day centres, five will go – Springfield and Quayside in Bideford; Beech House in South Molton; Burrow House in Ilfracombe; and a hub at the Plough in Torrington.

But more detail was released at the meeting for plans for a new ‘integrated service’ in Barnstaple, with Oakwell, Rosebank, Silverhill, Tarka, Greenfields and Oasis to be under one roof, possibly the Rosebank building.

For Oasis, a case worker is to be appointed to enable users to take part in a wider range of activities.

Details also included a timetable for closures, with Fairlea in Bideford to close this month, Lydiate Lodge in the autumn, Oakwell in early 2015 and Beech House plus Burrow House in spring 2015.

Barnstaple County Councillor John Matthews denied allegations of ‘political voting’ over the care cuts issue: “No one told us how to vote but we knew that the budget had to go through,” he said.

Independent councillor for Fremington Frank Biederman seconded two motions seeking guarantees or safeguards giving residents access to alternative day centres, as well as putting forward a motion calling for Oakwell to remain open.

“It was quite clear, they did not want to listen and were only interested in supporting their party,” he said.

“What tells me they were told how to vote is why would you not allow members of the public to speak at a public meeting?

“We all know they are in a terrible position financially and the government has put them there, but they should be able to allow our residents to speak.”

Cllr Matthews revealed that an email from cabinet member Cllr Stuart Barker who oversaw the decision said since the consultation began, the number of people in DCC care homes had gone from 342 to 252, with 33 recently volunteering to move.

It also said the council had ‘budgeted for a premium to be paid’ to help existing residents ‘choose the home of their choice without financial barrier’.

Opposition councillors claimed today (Monday) that the council should be using some of its ‘rainy day’ reserves to support the services and avoid care cuts, but a council spokesman said:

“All authorities are required to keep a prudent level of reserves. The actual level of general reserves in Devon is around £14million, with £36m earmarked to cover the cost of emergency capital repairs. This is much less than for similar councils, and it would account for just a few days of routine spending.”

* In response to our story last week about Oasis day centre, Cllr Barker commented online: ‘The article about Oasis does not represent the decision that was made. The ‘family’ group will not be broken up nor will they lose the opportunity to use the new integrated centre in Barnstaple when a decision is made about where the new centre should be located. I visited Oasis before making any decisions and was impressed by their commitment to each other and their desire to do things together’.

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