[20.55: Two updates at foot] Argyll and Bute Council has issued the following press statement on the proposed closure of Struan Lodge Care Home in Dunoon:
‘The Coalition Administration of Argyll & Bute Council met on Thursday 31st January to consider all the issues raised by the community and staff regarding the proposed closure of Struan Lodge.
‘An intense day of scrutiny including detailed sessions with senior management provided answers to all questions raised by the community, residents, carers and staff.
‘Members were reassured that all requests for information have been and continue to be processed as quickly as possible by the Council.
‘A final decision on the proposed planned closure will be made at the Council meeting on the 14th of February but the Administration have confirmed they are minded to approve the recommendation from the Special Committee on Adult Care to close Struan Lodge on a phased and planned approach.
‘Such a decision would mean an immediate moratorium on new admissions but at the earliest, closure would be at least three months away.
‘Lead Councillor for Adult Care, Councillor Anne Horn said: ‘Our policy on adult care is to provide the best and most appropriate care and support to meet the needs of all our elderly people despite the difficult financial times ahead.
‘The proposed closure of Struan Lodge is the natural consequence of that policy. Spending £400,000 more than is necessary of the adult care budget to subsidise care at Struan Lodge is not fair on all the other older people who have care needs now or in the future, whether at home or in care homes.
‘Those funds can be much better applied to raise the quality of care, allow better responses to new care situations and relieve pressure on hard working staff.
‘ ‘Thank you’ to everyone who wrote to us and contacted us over the last few weeks; your views are vitally important in helping us find the best way forward for residents of this facility. There will be a phased and planned approach to any closure to meet the individual needs of residents and to provide all possible support in selecting and re-locating to another care situation.
‘It is impossible to achieve the £5.8m savings to meet our requirement to balance the Council budget without impacting on job security.
‘It is regrettable that the staff at Struan Lodge may be redeployed or even subject to redundancy but we are confident that management are keeping staff and unions updated and dealing with this in the correct and agreed manner.
‘We are aware of a possible staff buy-out of the facility but so far no proposal has been brought forward by them. If such an approach were made we would ensure it received proper consideration.
‘It is a firm commitment that all possible assistance will be given to residents, families and carers in selecting a different care home and in ensuring the welfare of these ten elderly people during their transfer.
‘We recognise that living with uncertainty is very difficult for everyone involved so we hope the Council on the 14th February will provide a clear decision on the future of Struan Lodge to allow residents, carers, families and staff to make firm plans for the future.’
The political philosophy of the Argyll First group, where they put the interests of Argyll First – above local and other interests, means that members are always free to vote as they individually see the issue of the moment. The group does not therefore operate a whipping system. We understand that Councillor Donald Kelly of Argyll First does not support this press release.
We asked Councillor Kelly for the reasons for his discomfort with the administration’s majority decision to lean towards the closure of Struan Lodge Care Home.
From what he has told us, the heart of his position is that he feels the Council should be trying to bring the remaining nursing homes up to the standard of Struan Lodge instead of closing it to make the books balance.
He says: ‘My view is that people come first and if there is the an opportunity to keep a facility such as Struan Lodge open we should do it.’
Councillor Kelly dismisses claims that keeping Struan Lodge open would impact negatively on the generality of adult care in Argyll and Bute. He points to the continuing cost of the practice of commissioning consultants, which is around £1 million a year.
The previous administration attempted to resolve its savings targets by the naive brutalism of simply closing 26 primary schools. A single budget sector may be the largest but the issue is not its immediate targeting for cuts but an interrogation of its relative value to Argyll and Bute.
Councillor Kelly says that the new administration has had a difficult job dealing with the financial mess it inherited when it came to power in May last year but feels that there is room for a more delicate, if more complex, balancing of the books.