By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter / firstname.lastname@example.org
A BID to force Bristol City Council to rethink its plans to privatise more of its home care service have failed.
Labour councillors proposed a motion at last nights full council meeting calling for the Liberal Democrat run authority to suspend the agreed changes to home care services and have another look at them.
With the Lib Dems now running a minority administration following losses at the local elections in May, it looked like Labour might get their way.
But despite initially stating their support, the Conservatives decided not to back the move at the very last minute.
This meant Labour didn’t have the votes and the motion failed.
It came following a frequently ill tempered debate and a number of highly critical statements from members of the public on the proposed changes.
The dispute revolves around the cost of providing home care for elderly people in the city.
The council says that for years the authority has been paying over the odds for more expensive in-house care services rather than cheaper, private home care.
The problem is, as executive member for health care Dr Jon Rogers admitted, no one seems to know exactly why this is.
But Labour and unions have disputed the figures, accusing the council of waste and financial mismanagement.
The opposing groups have been making claim and counter claim in the last two weeks, throwing around various figures about the “real” cost of home care.
As the Lib Dems pointed out last night, this has all taken place ahead of a by election in Southmead next Thursday, prompted by the resignation last month of one of their councillors, Dr Jackie Bowles.
Protests were held by home care workers and members of the Unite union outside of the meeting before the debate took place.
A series of public statements were made that were highly critical of the council’s proposed changes.
Mike Luff, of the Bristol and District Anti Cuts Alliance, said: “You should recognise your duty to look after the most vulnerable people in our society.
“If it’s a choice between in house services that are under the council’s control and get-rich-quick spivs I know which side I want to be on.
“You may think you’re saving money but you won’t be saving lives.”
In proposing the motion to rethink the strategy, Labour group leader Peter Hammond said the Lib Dems “had the chance to do the right thing”.
To Dr Rogers he said: “Just going out and saying to everybody ‘trust me, I’m a doctor’ is not a valid political argument.
“You have failed to convince anybody.”
But with the council needing to make some £78 million of cuts in the next four years, the authority says the current situation can no longer continue.
Dr Rogers said: “Successive administrations have tried to deal with this.
“We want out home care services to be cost effective.”
The dispute over home care costs was the same row that cost the Lib Dems control of the authority four years ago.
Last night Lib Dem leader Barbara Janke challenged Labour to call for a vote of no confidence if they thought they could do a better job, but the opposition group did not take her up on the offer.