Here's my statement of support for tonight's public meeting on the future of 'The Green' care home in Seacroft.
I wish I could be with you at the meeting tonight but I have to be in Parliament, where I am attending the debate on the future of junior doctors and our health service in Leeds and across the country.
I’m delighted that you’re all going to take part in the consultation on the future of ‘The Green’. It’s vital that local people, service users, the families of service users and staff – through their trade union – make their voices heard in this consultation.
It should never be forgotten that the Conservative Government has taken the political decision to hit Leeds City Council and other Councils across the country with savage cuts. The Conservative Government has chosen to cut funding to Leeds City Council by not far off 50%. The Labour-run Leeds City Council does a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances but a Government decision to cut a budget by almost half inevitably causes damage to jobs, services and communities.
However, I do not believe that the closure of ‘The Green’ has to be inevitable. The Council should produce a review of its report and that review should look at reconfiguring a service within the budget envelope. Even in the report produced by the Council, ‘The Green’ was the most financially viable of the Council’s Care Homes that are being considered for closure. I’m aware that Trade Unions representing staff at ‘The Green’ have prepared suggestions on savings which they believe can bridge the funding gap.
‘The Green’ is virtually full and is a popular home. Indeed, there are service users from the privately owned care home across the road who opted to move in to ‘The Green’ because they preferred the care they would receive there. The difference between the cost to the Council of accommodating a service user at ‘The Green’ and accommodating a service user in a privately owned home is, I understand, £72 per week.
Leeds City Council is under tremendous pressure due to ruthless cuts from the Conservative Government – cuts which have placed hardworking local Councillors who care deeply about local jobs and local services in a very difficult situation. However, if Leeds City Council’s remaining care homes are closed then this gives a monopoly to the private sector, meaning that privately owned care homes across the city could choose to very significantly increase the amount of money they charge the Council to accommodate service users.
I believe that Leeds City Council – despite the immense funding cuts it faces from the Conservative Government – should find a way to keep the care in Council hands. I believe this means – at the very least – finding a way to keep ‘The Green’ open. At a national level, the Conservative Government is pursuing a project to marketise and privatise our NHS. This project must be defeated. Similarly, at a local level, we cannot allow all of our Council run care homes to be closed and the work they once did to be run by private owners and those whose main concern is profit.
If I did not have to be in Parliament this evening, I would be with you at this meeting. I would encourage as many people as possible to take part in this consultation and I wholeheartedly support the campaign to keep ‘The Green’ open.