The main business of last night’s full council meeting (see agenda) was the motion proposed by Labour’s Cllr Greenhead on adult services which in effect called into question our commitment to adult services.
It was stange for Labour to raise this issue now as it was only two years ago that the previous Labour administration had a poor adult services operation on their hands (see rating from the Commission for Social Care Inspection’s ratings for Ealing).
Cllr Green, portfolio holder for Adult Services & Housing, widely acknowledged as a capable and effective political leader of this service, was visibly angered by Labour’s cheap shots. He described Cllr Greenhead and the Labour front bench as the weakest of a weak bunch. Maybe he should not have taken this personally but his emotional response reflects his personal commitment to the service.
He was particularly angered that Greenhead had tried to suggest that the recently departed (and respected) Director of Adult Services, Mun Thong Phung, had gone from Ealing to Haringey because Haringey was a Labour council and that he did not want to work for a Tory council. This is rubbish and the kind of thing that councillors must never suggest unless we want to politicise officers. See Haringey’s press release and make your own mind up about Greenhead claims.
I managed to catch the Mayor’s eye and speak directly after Cllr Green. I said:
Cllr Greenhead wants to talk about Adult Services. So do I. I want to highlight how ineffective the Labour Group have been on the Health, Housing and Adult Social Services Panel.
These scrutiny panels are a way that opposition councillors can hold the council to account. This panel also has the ability to hold health service bodies to account. It is a shame that Labour can’t be bothered to turn up to these meetings. It is understandable why they don’t turn up. These are long meetings with thick papers. In the municipal year just finished the Conservative members turned up 98% of the time.
Now let us examine Labour’s record. Their members have failed to turn up at all one third of the time. One of their members only turned up twice all year [out of 8 meetings]. There was one meeting where no sitting Labour members turned up. They managed to send one alternate who did not say anything. Therefore the panel was discussing issues such as the key estates strategy and services for older people without any contribution from the Labour group.
Cllr Greenhead turned up on this panel twice as an alternate. On those two occasions she failed to notice or advertise a £200K cut in the CAMHS budget imposed by a Labour government or the fact that Ealing PCT had been forced to lend the Secretary of State £29 million. Indeed on her second appearance she managed to show her commitment to these issues by turning up 40 minutes late and leaving early whilst not making any contribution whatsoever to the meeting.
Labour may say it cares but it needs to turn up if anyone is to believe them.
After I spoke the deputy portfolio holder, Mark Reen, who is also one of the three Northfield councillors, gave a measured and confident speech which among other things highlighted how Labour managed to stop spending on disabled facilities grants in October 2005 only half way through their last year in office. Cllr Rosa Popham gave a maiden speech and pointed out Labour’s poor record in tackling disability issues. When Labour left power only 3% of the council’s buildings were accessible. In our first year in power we managed to push this figure up to 50%.
Labour were so put out by their rough handling that they refused to attend the traditional drink up in the Mayor’s Parlour afterwards.
For all the apparent disharmony all councillors agreed to everything else on the agenda. They unanimously agreed to:
- ensure that the forthcoming parenting strategy is linked with the community safety strategy – Labour motion
- oppose the proposed third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow – LibDem motion
- allow council employees to retire when they were ready, not arbitrarily at 65 – Tory motion.