Council accused by union

PUBLISHED: 17:01 24 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:38 25 May 2010

UNISON has accused North Somerset Council of 'double standards' following the decision to investigate closing a dementia carehome.

UNISON has accused North Somerset Council of 'double standards' following the decision to investigate closing a dementia carehome.

The council workers' union has this week questioned the use of tax payers' money after the council's executive decided to discontinue proposals for the promised 'flagship' project at the Ebdon Court site in Worle.

It also decided to press ahead with looking at the potential closure of Poppyfields residential home for dementia sufferers, currently situated on the Trenleigh Drive site, and provide alternative accommodation elsewhere in the area.

Union representatives joined staff and carers from the Worle site outside Weston Town Hall in a protest against the proposals last week.

UNISON branch secretary Helen Thornton said: "Yet again we question whether or not council taxpayers' money is being used appropriately by this council.

"How much tax payers' money has the council spent over the past five years on the process involved in outsourcing Poppyfields, only to have the external provider withdraw?

"The decision to look at closing the facility demonstrates the council's double standards at a time when it is prepared to borrow £14million to buy new offices, but is not prepared to put the much smaller investment needed to keep it open.

"The council's decision also completely contradicts its stated priority to ensure older people are adequately supported.

"UNISON will be writing to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to express its concerns regarding the equalities implications of the decision to close Poppyfields, which will have a devastating impact on older people with mental health issues and their carers."

The facility was threatened with closure before Christmas in 2004, but when the news was met with anger from patients and their families the authority vowed to build a 'flagship development' in its place.

It is proposed that Severn and Birnbeck day centres will remain at the site and that there will be investment in establishing a new technical centre, a centralised community meals facility and a training facility for voluntary and care workers.

Ms Thornton added: "Poppyfields' staff, service users and their families have lived for the past five years with the threat of closure hanging over their heads.

"The decision to close Poppyfields, now that Housing 21 has pulled out, shows the dangers and the hidden costs involved in the outsourcing of public services.

"It also shows why essential services, like those for dementia sufferers, needed to be provided directly by local authorities".

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