Councillors at odds over future of facilities for elderly residents
TORY controlled Cheshire West and Chester Council is planning to replace its ‘inadequate’ short stay adult care accommodation with ‘excellent’ new facilities.
But the Labour opposition has questions which it believes have not been answered.
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s head of adult services, Cllr Brenda Dowding (Con, Parkgate), and Labour’s deputy spokesman, Blacon councillor Alex Tate, appear to disagree not only on what the issue actually is, but also on the current position.
Two separate aspects of adult care in the Chester and Ellesmere Port areas of the borough have become linked – that of short term respite care and day care through community support centres.
In addition, an 810-signature petition has been submitted to the council opposing the closure of any respite, short stay or day care facilities.
On one hand there is the possibility of a new state of the art facility in Newton, Chester, which could replace existing community support centres.
On the other, there is the question of removing short stay and respite beds from Lightfoot Lodge in Hoole, which is due to happen next month.
Following discussions between the council and residents in Newton, proposals have been drawn up for a 72- place centre at the former Woodfield School.
This would meet the latest Care Quality Commission standards, including all en-suite bedrooms and larger room sizes.
The new build could replace Lightfoot Lodge and Curzon House in Chester and Sutton Beeches in Ellesmere Port, which offer short term and respite residential care and day care centres.
The facility would include six multi- purpose units, each with 12 en-suite bedrooms, two of which would be for people with dementia, two for intermediate care and two for respite/short stay.
There would also be a 20-place day care facility for people with dementia and 12 bungalows in the grounds for older people who need care and support.
Community facilities would also be provided.
While the new-build was being completed, the council has proposed that residents would receive respite care at Curzon House, Hallwood Court in Neston, or at Sutton Beeches.
There would also be an option for individuals to have places funded for them at an independent home of their choice, or to use the council’s family based care service.
Hoole and Newton councillor Adrian Walmsley (Con) points out, however, that no final decision has been made on the future of the day care arrangements at Lightfoot Lodge, or on the future of Curzon House and Sutton Beeches.
It has been suggested day care at Lightfoot Lodge would remain until the new build is complete, or an alternative use is found for the site, possibly housing for older people.
Cllr Walmsley describes the possibilities in Newton as ‘early drawing board plans’.
However, Cllr Dowding has taken the decision to close the respite and short stay beds in Lightfoot Lodge from next month.
The closure, which follows a 12-week consultation by the council, is said to be possible due to spare capacity in the council's community support centres.
At the most recent meeting of the full council, Cllr Tate suggested that the planned closure of Lightfoot Lodge in September and the subsequent plans to close Curzon House and Sutton Beeches be delayed until it is certain that the new facility in Chester will actually happen.
Cllr Dowding replied: “This question is mistaken as it assumes the closure of Lightfoot Lodge is dependent on some future plans.
“This is simply not true.
“Cheshire West and Chester currently has over-provision of accommodation.
“Last year the over capacity in our community resource reached 21% and it is rising.
“This is the equivalent of over £680,000 just wasted.
“Last week alone there were a total of 266 empty bed nights.”
Cllr Dowding pointed out the decision to close the short-stay beds at Lightfoot Lodge had already been taken and suggested it could have been questioned through a call in.
She claimed the replacement of the council’s ‘out of date community support centres’ would be ‘a fantastic improvement in services to our residents’.
She added: “We have managed to identify the resources to allow this to happen and that is good news, but there is still some way to go.
“In the meantime it serves no one to waste money and funding empty beds is a real waste of money.”
Cllr Tate responded by asking for a contingency plan to consider alternative options, such as a refurbishment programme for the current homes, and asked what would happen to service users if the Newton scheme never materialises.
Cllr Dowding emphasised the current discussions relate only to short-stay provision and not to any long term accommodation.
She said: “Our short-stay buildings are inadequate when measured against the modern standards residents have every right to expect.
“The care offered by dedicated staff at Sutton Beeches in Ellesmere Port and Curzon House is second to none but their excellent work is challenged by small bedrooms, a shortage of en-suite bathrooms, narrow corridors and sub standard communal facilities.
“We are determined to tackle this unacceptable situation.”