There has long been a suspicion that the council would engineer a closure by ensuring that occupancy rates remained low, and lo and behold up popped St Paul's on the list of targets in the recent public consultation on budget cuts:
Better utilisation of staff and buildings by closure of St Paul’s as a residential care home but being developed to provide supported accomodation....
(spelling and punctuation taken straight from the council's official budget consultation document).
As we saw the other day in the case of the Glanmarlais and Tegfan residential homes in Ammanford and Llandybie, the council is not going to let a consultation get in the way of its plans, and sure enough the Director of Social Care and Housing Bruce McLernon has now told staff at St Paul's that the home and their jobs are for the chop.
St Paul's is a modern, purpose-built residential care home, but is apparently surplus to requirements in a society with a rapidly ageing population. A press office spokeswoman told the Llanelli Star that there was sufficient capacity in other local authority and private care homes in the area.
An interesting question would be how many places in private care homes is the council currently paying for in the area, and why has take-up of spare places in St Paul's been so low.
Most care homes in what the council likes to call the "independent sector" are run as profit-making businesses. If it is cheaper for the council to fund places in private homes rather than care for people in local authority homes, and if the private homes still make a decent profit out of the transaction, what does that tell you about standards and the quality of life in the cheaper private sector homes?
But back to Mr McLernon and the small matter of the public consultation.
What is supposed to happen is that council officers analyse and report on all of the responses they received. Almost certainly those responses include objections to the proposed closure of St Paul's. That report is then supposed to go to the Executive Board for consideration before they sit down to discuss and approve a draft budget. The budget then has to go before the full council.
The Executive Board will not meet until 3 February, and the full council is due to meet to approve the budget on 19 February. The meeting on 3 February will be the first opportunity any elected councillors have had to discuss the outcome of the consultation in a scheduled meeting, even if discussion is restricted to just 10 of them.
I'll leave the last word to Jim Royle.
|Consultation, my arse!|