Lib Dem county councillors call for extraordinary meeting to discuss proposals to close homes and day centres in public.
A senior Barnstaple county councillor has joined fellow Liberal Democrats to call for an emergency meeting of Devon County Council to prevent decisions on care cuts being ‘taken behind closed doors’.
Brian Greenslade and the Lib Dem minority on the county council have invoked rules to ensure an extraordinary meeting of the council takes place to discuss proposed closures which include day centres, care homes and youth centres.
Mr Greenslade claims the Conservative administration which runs the council has ‘paid lip service’ to the consultation process and ‘locked out’ many county councillors.
He alleges it has used its majority to delegate decisions about individual sites such as Greenfields, Silverhill Lodge, Oakwell and the Youth Café in Barnstaple to individual members of the DCC cabinet after consultations closed.
“It is simply not good enough that only cabinet members at County Hall will decide upon the future of these vital services to our community,” he said.
“That is an affront to democracy and effectively locks most county councillors out of the decision making process, which is doubtless the intention.
“It is also an affront to the public who have in good faith responded to the consultations. People’s wellbeing is at stake here and it should not be left to a small group of leading councillors to take such vital decisions behind closed doors.”
He said in the past weeks he and Barnstaple Mayor, Cllr Lesley Brown, had visited various day centres, homes and youth facilities facing the axe, adding: “There is real fear as to the future of these services and anger at the lack of adequate consultation.
“If the powers at County Hall had been more forthcoming some local solutions could have emerged but the DCC Leadership seems hell bent on making these savings whatever the holistic cost to the community.”
But DCC Conservative Leader John Hart hit back by saying this was exactly the same way of making decisions the Liberal Democrats used when they ran the council
“There are currently dozens of consultation meetings going on across the county in communities which I and other cabinet members are attending to hear people’s views on a range of issues,” he said.
“These meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend.* People don’t have to make a special journey to County Hall to make their voices heard.
“No decisions have been taken and we won’t be making any recommendations until each of the consultations is complete. A report will then come before the Cabinet with recommendations.”
* The North Devon Gazette tried to attend two consultations in Barnstaple, but was turned away from one and we were later told press could not attend any of the consultation events.
A common complaint from those who attended a consultation at The Cedars was that no senior officers or councillors were present.
*** At the time of going to print on Tuesday, the Gazette received further comments from DCC after we put it to them the consultations were not ‘public’ events. A spokesman said recent care home meetings and day centre meetings had been private meetings called for residents and day service users and their relatives and carers, so in that sense they were not public meetings everyone has been able to attend. However, they said everyone had been able to make their comments known to, and to engage in the consultation, through the consultation pages online.
A revised comment from Mr Hart said: “All public meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend and everyone can have their say online.”