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Labour councillor slams own party's plans to close care homes as "cloud cuckoo land"
A LEADING member of the Labour council has attacked plans to close care homes and day centres as "living in cloud cuckoo land".
Councillor Gideon Bull, chair of the council's overview and scrutiny committee has spoken out about the drastic cost-cutting measures being proposed. He said that the council was “living in cloud cuckoo land” if it pushed ahead with the wholesale closures of care centres.
He is leading investigations into Labour's budget plans as they look for £87m in savings over the next three years.
Cllr Bull said: “I am a passionate believer that you cannot have a situation of a local authority that hasn't got one day care centre.
"We are living in cloud cuckoo land if we think, when I get older and I have a stroke and my partner is looking after me, are we honestly saying his or her respite is going to be based on a bit of personal care – someone coming round and giving me a wash or taking me out for a couple of hours? “It's nonsense, absolute nonsense and I'm going to make sure that is clear in the observations I make to the cabinet.
His comments were backed up by the Lib Dem opposition.
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, accusing Labour of attacking “soft targets” when deciding where the axe will fall.
She said: “I believe this drastic cut to services for older people is a very poor decision. We should protect our most vulnerable not close services they cherish.”
Finance chief, Councillor Joe Goldberg and leader, Councillor Claire Kober last week defended their plans, saying axing day care and drop in centres in the borough was an acceleration of the personalisation agenda already being introduced into adult services.
Cllr Goldberg stressed other budget cuts would have to come, and although severe cuts to adult care are already on the table, other policy areas would be similarly hit.
However, Cllr Kober blames the government “front-loading” of cuts by central government for exacerbating the problems local councils are facing, and said she is expecting a public backlash to the budget plans but there is little Labour can do about it.
She said: “I expect people to be angry, because I'm angry and many of our staff are angry.
“People have spent careers building up services, some that are not necessarily accessed by people who are vocal. But they have got value and we will have to stop providing them.”
Cllr Bull's committee will grill Cllr Kober on Monday on the budget plans already revealed, but there is growing frustration from councillors and officers that the full budget has not yet been finalised.
Kevin Bartle, lead finance officer for the council, told the scrutiny panel last week that staff were working hard to deliver a budget by the end of March, but he said even the central government funding has not been definitely agreed as it remains under consultation.