Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Democracy came second after politics.

At the end of the KCC Cabinet agenda yesterday, those Cabinet Members who had appeared before the last meeting of Cabinet Scrutiny were asked to confirm that they had set in place actions to comply with the recommendations of the committee.

For me, it was an opportunity to reflect on over two hours spent questioning KCC's decision to recommission the day centre service at Queen Elizabeth Resource Centre in Dartford. Various postings to this blog have outlined the protests, media coverage, petitions and general concern about this decision, yet still the Labour-led Cabinet Scrutiny committee saw fit to invite two vulnerable wheelchair-bound users of the service, with no rest break, toilet break or any thought for medication times, to sit for over two hours at the table giving evidence.

Both Liberal Democrat and Labour spokesmen were invited to stand and read prepared statements which neither furthered the debate nor uncovered new evidence. And when the Managing Director of Kent Adult Social Services asked to correct the biased and misinformed statements, he was denied the opportunity.

And after all that, the committee recommended that we undertake the same degree of public consultation whether we commission a service or whether KCC owns that service. So when, last month, a national care home provider went out of business - calling us on the 16th to tell us to have all our clients out of their homes by the 20th - we should have refused and begun a six-month public consultation? When we received complaints from staff, users and carers about a day care facility, we should have 'put them on hold' for twelve weeks while we sought public opinion?

No. We will react with the same speed and compassion that we always have, because that's what social care is about. Not bureaucracy. Not box-ticking. And not posturing and political grandstanding while real life problems get put on the back burner.

I was pleased to have been asked to comment on my recent "brush with scrutiny". And a little more pleased to be able to shed some light on a biased meeting where democracy came second after politics.

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