The Tory Blight That Has Taken Leicester’s Kingfisher Unit

A terrible blight is currently wreaking havoc on Britain. But the worse thing about this particular blight is that although it germinated within our hateful Tory government, Labour Councils across the land are, instead of fighting it, actively contributing towards its spread.

The blight I talk about is the effective destruction of local public services, which is felt across the land through funding cuts and closures of youth services, mental health services, education, welfare rights services, libraries, children’s centres and more.

The most horrific thing about the rapid spread of this Tory blight is that Labour-led Councils, like Leicester’s, could actually immunise the public from the coming abolition of local authority services, that is, if our councillors had any desire to service the public good at all. At the very least they can support popular calls to demand that tax-payer paid council officers set about investigating the exact means by which Tory cuts can be resisted!

Patrick Bowe’s letter in yesterday’s Leicester Mercury (February 14) titled “The key centre shouldn’t shut” drew attention to one of the latest needless victims of the plight of austerity that is bringing our city to its knees. The letter pointed out how the Kingfisher Assessment Unit which “provides care for up to 37 vulnerable elderly residents” is set to be closed by the end of March. As the “last such facility owned and operated by the city council” the letter called for “common sense to prevail” to stop the closure of the centre. Patrick’s letter explains:

“It has a team of highly skilled carers and is a vital facility for the city, providing respite care for the elderly and a facility to prevent bed blocking at our hard-pressed hospitals. It is just not sensible for the city council to close this unit.”

 

What cannot be in doubt is the quality of care provided at the Kingfisher Unit. This much was made clear in the most recent Care Quality Commission report (January 2016) which amongst other things reported how they had:

“…asked people for their views as to the attitude and approach of staff. All those we spoke with had praise for the staff who they felt were ‘caring’. One person said, “The staff are all wonderful; very caring towards the both of us.” Visitors to the service were also treated with care and compassion by the staff.”

img_2299The decision of our Labour Council to close this service has resulted in 48 highly-trained individuals losing their jobs (and a loss of 38.4 full-time-equivalent jobs). And the only reason this dreadful decision was ever made is because the Tories have cut local funding, and Labour’s duty-felt obligation to pass those cuts on to us!

But now is certainly the time for Labour to think outside the box of Tory cuts if they are serious about serving the needs of the people of Leicester.

To help our Labour Council along, UNISON recently submitted a fully worked-out proposal which outlined how the Council could oppose further Tory austerity by calling upon the city’s council officers to investigate how the Council could set a “no cuts” budget with immediate effect. Unfortunately, the City Mayor’s public response has been to attack and ridicule UNISON’s idea of setting a “no cuts” budget. This is hardly a productive way for the Labour Party to respond to a serious proposal that could save the future of public services in our city, but, on the other hand, is not a totally unexpected response from our city’s increasingly authoritarian City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby.

ADDENDUM: Problems With Council Reports Concerning the Kingfisher Unit

The Council report (“Kingfisher Unit: Future Options”) that was presented to the Adult Social Care Scrutiny Commission (October 25, 2016) to justify the closure of the Unit states, as a means of an introduction, that: “The Kingfisher Unit merged with Brookside Court in January 2016 creating 37 beds. Its aim was to provide short-term intermediate care support, for a maximum of six weeks, for individuals to re-gain lost skills to return home with improved levels of independence, thereby minimising their need for ongoing social care support. It also offered respite and assessment short stays.”

With regards the future of the Unit, the report is clear that only two options were considered viable by the Council: “The first option is to close the Kingfisher Unit and the second option is to sell the Kingfisher Unit as a residential care business.”  And apparently, because of the potential of Option 1 to make increased short-term savings at the expense of the livelihoods of 48 employees, the report emphasizes the desirability of closing the Kingfisher Unit. The report observes:

“Closing the Kingfisher unit and selling the building would save £500k by 2018/19… For realising savings this option is quicker than Option 2 as it would take 9 months to close the Kingfisher Unit and sell the building but 15 months to sell it as a residential care business. It also provides almost double the on-going savings.”

council-kingfisher-table

But this summary of the data for the Council’s decision-makers is highly misleading, as in reality it would be more accurate to state that the difference in the savings achieved by Option 1 and Option 2 over the next four years would be negligible. I say this because the data provided in the above table (displayed in the Council’s report) shows that initial total “savings” achieved by 2020/21 would be £1.6 million for Option 1, and £600k for Option 2. Yet this does not include the “additional one-off costs estimated to be in the region of £800k linked to redundancy payments and double running of the service during the closure process” associated with Option 1. We should also take into account that “Both options could deliver a one-off capital receipt in the region of £750k.” Thus taking all these figures into account, we can see that by 2020/21 Option 1 would have provided the Council with total “savings” of £1.55m, and Option 2 with “savings” of £1.35m. So for the sake of saving £200k (spread over four years), our Council made the tragic decision to make 48 highly-trained and skilled employees redundant! Moreover moving beyond 2021, the Council’s report affirms that that the on-going savings from Option 1 will not continue to be “almost double” that of Option 2 (as they misleadingly asserted earlier in the report). This is because they acknowledge that:

“Savings for Option 2 increase over time as staff turnover reduces the impact of this TUPE liability. Savings for Option 1 reduce over time as independent sector wages are expected to rise at a faster pace than those of in-house staff.”

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