Notebook

SNP presiding over cuts in health and social care services

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Dumbarton Health Centre is housed in an old prefabricated building at Artizan.

There are far too many agencies and arm’s length organisations doing the work of local councils.

Empire building is the name of the game in local government these days, and you should watch out for it grow exponentially as West Dunbartonshire Council moves into its new offices in the old Burgh Hall in Church Street.

One of these new-fangled organisations is the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) which provides health and social care services across West Dunbartonshire.

The chairperson for this is Councillor Marie McNair who, despite having taken a seat that is not yet warm, is boasting about the fact that she’s making improvements and not cuts. She would have us believe that the SNP are reducing services in order to make them better.

Believe that and I’ll sell you 100 acres of swampland down by the Leven to build houses on.

Not yet two dark nights in existence, the SNP councillor has outlined the challenges this relatively new committee, which is made up of elected representatives and health professionals, faces under Scotland’s struggling SNP government.

McNair Marie 2Councillor McNair (pictured left) has told the electorate that there are many challenges around improving health and well-being here and that the partnership is striving to address them by providing effective services and support focusing on the needs of the community.

She says the partnership has a budget of more than £150 million and there have been difficult financial challenges to address.

“I want to ensure every single penny is spent on what matters most and that we get value for money while providing services that are effective,” she wrote.

Well, Cllr McNair, you have a massive task on your hands, especially when £150 million is not nearly enough for the task in hand.

Like all politicians, Cllr McNair starts out by buttering up NHS employees in the usual way – patronising them with “how wonderful you are” and “what a terrific job you are all doing”.

And omits to add that they are paid miserly rates for the job and they work constantly with the threat of redundancy and additional work hanging over them.

Here are her weasel words: “Our employees make a massive contribution and while setting the budget I guaranteed that there would be no compulsory redundancies although the financial pressures meant savings would need to be made to balance the budget.

“We were able to achieve that and will also meet the commitment to pay all our adult social care workers the Scottish Living Wage.

“This will be extended out to sleepover hours and by the end of this financial year we will have invested more than £4m to achieve this. This was denied to these workers by Labour for many years and they should hang their heads in shame at how they treated them.”

This is the pot calling the kettle black.

She added: “Unfortunately, Labour’s approach to this budget knows no shame. Their failure to achieve savings targets when in power meant a big part of the changes we had to make was tidying up the mess they left.

Their proposed council budget would also have needed the same amount of savings for the partnership but they tried to wriggle out of this at the HSCP [budget] meeting.

“Their proposal that we don’t balance the budget was widely ridiculed and got no support from anyone [other than Labour] at the meeting.”

She claimed “all we get from Labour’s Martin Rooney and Jackie Baillie are crocodile tears and nasty attacks on our services”.

Cllr McNair added: “When Labour were in power in parliament and the council they did nothing but bring cut after cut.

“Ms Baillie did not stop colleagues cutting millions from the budget for vulnerable people and presided over dreadful council budget settlements.”

She told the people of West Dunbartonshire, where Dumbarton Health Centre is operating out of an ancient prefabricated building in Artisan and the Vale of Leven Hospital is forever linked with service closures and cuts: “I know you won’t be fooled by crocodile tears. We [the SNP] offer a planned approach, guaranteeing no compulsory redundancies and developing services across the area.”

What is this planned approach then?

At their budget meeting, Cllr McNair and independent councillor Denis Agnew, moved recommendations approving cuts to the health and social care budgets, which include job losses, despite the fact she says there will be none.

If Labour did cut £millions from health and social care services, as the SNP allege, then the SNP are simply adding to their problems by taking away even more.

The cuts include removing night shift cover in sheltered housing complexes; staff cuts to the Social Work team within Adult Care; the removal of staff within the Children and Families team; cutting the provision of external residential bed; changes to housing support for adults with learning disabilities and increasing charges for Blue Badges for disabled parking.

At the same meeting, Labour councillor John Mooney put forward a counter motion urging the board to reject the cuts to services and calling on the Scottish Government to properly fund the HSCP to protect services for the community but the motion received no support from the board.

MSP Baillie said: “The cuts which have been pushed through by the SNP and independent councillors will have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our community. This yet again shows the disregard that this administration has for people across West Dunbartonshire.”

As for Dumbarton’s chances of getting a new health centre, there is little if any possibility that will happen when the HSCP is packed with Clydebank members and money is allocated not on the basis of need but by the age old method of Buggins’s Turn.

BILL HEANEY

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