Langcraigs Home at Gooseholm being torn down at the weekend. Pictures by Raymond Stewart, Bill Heaney and Tom Gardiner
By Bill Heaney
It’s Easter. Not just another Sunday, but it has that groundhog day feel about it since it brings not just chocolate eggs and bunny rabbits but yet another U-turn by the SNP/Conservative alliance at West Dunbartonshire Council.
A new post on social media by Raymond Stewart reveals Langcraigs Residential Home off Townend Road at Gooseholm being razed to the grounds by demolition contractors.
Last November, The Democrat updated readers on the controversial sale of three Council homes – Dalreoch House, Langcraigs and Willox Park.
It was a bargain bundle for the purchasers since they went for less than £2 million.
Crosslet House, which replaced them, cost the Council £10 million plus and subsequently became a cause for concern when two workers there were hauled before the Care Commission for leaving a patient in pain with a broken leg in bed all night and not calling medical assistance.
Langcraigs, one of the community based homes, was sold off by the Council for less than a £1 million, which was £250,000 less than the highest offer of £1.2 million.
Meallmore, the new owners, assured the Council that it was in good condition; that it would be quickly insured and secured and would save the Council money on security. It was on the basis of this assurance that the deal was done.
Willox Park and Dalreoch old people’s homes.
Councillors at November’s Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development Committee were told that buyers had been secured for Dalreoch House and Willox Park, both in Dumbarton, and for the land which formerly housed the Auchentoshan Day Care Centre in Clydebank.
And that Turnberry Homes wanted to purchase Dalreoch, which has been uninhabited since June 2017 after residents moved to Crosslet House.
Turnberry will seek to build a traditional residential development made up of 18 two-storey homes on the land on the site of the old West Bridgend Primary School.
Willox Park Care Home, in leafy Barloan, was also earmarked as surplus and left empty when residents moved into Crosslet House, where so-called economies of scale had been introduced.
The move to the Crosslet site, which is at the back of beyond and off the A82 boulevard, which has been crazily busy and more dangerous than ever with traffic over the Easter Weekend, was once again seen to be more about saving money than making life easier for elderly people and their friends and relatives who visit them.
The Council say the new buyer for Willox Park, HB Villages, wants to build a specialised supported housing scheme in the area for adults with learning difficulties and physical disabilities.
They have not disclosed, however what will happen to the existing sheltered housing around Willox Park home.
A buyer has also been found for the land where the Auchentoshan Day Care centre once stood off Mount Blow Road in Dalmuir.
The centre had to be demolished after it was targeted by vandals when it closed in 2009.
Now the Sim Group intends to build a new care home on the 3.16-acre site.
Councillor Iain McLaren, left, Convener of Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “It is great to see that these three sites, which were unused by the Council and were surplus to requirements, have the potential to be brought back to life again in ways that will improve the lives of our residents.”
The truth is that these homes only became “unused” when the council decided to shut them down.
However, Cllr McLaren had nothing to say, even when pressed, about the Langcraigs sale when The Democrat challenged him on the suitability of the new owners, whose track record in elderly care made frightening reading.
The bottom line in all this is that the council have sold off for less than £3 million three residential homes in the community which conform to the recommended way forward for the elderly by healthcare experts and replaced them with a large, impersonal building at Crosslet.
The Democrat asked at the time Langcraigs was sold off if West Dunbartonshire Council and the Health and Social Care Partnership had done any research into the background of the care home company that now owns it, but we didn’t get an answer.
Community Party councillor Jim Bollan, pictured right, said then: “Quite apart from the SNP Council passing up the opportunity to use this site to build council homes on, it is astonishing that the Health & Social Care Partnership quango have approved this company, Meallmore, as being fit a proper to take care of elderly residents.
“A look at their record in the care field is quite disturbing. A 91-year- old resident was attacked by another resident in a Meallmore home in Inverness, receiving nine injuries to their head.
“A 32-year-old with mental health issues lay dead for up to a week in their flat while being cared for by Meallmore care staff. A resident with Parkinson’s was humiliated and bullied by staff at a residential home in Aberdeen.
“How the H&SCP can approve this organisation to take care of some of our most vulnerable elderly residents beggars belief. This decision to sell this land to this company needs reviewed, before legal documents are signed.”
It looks now, with the bulldozers having moved into Langcraigs, that the SNP/Tory Council are content to allow the private sector to profit from caring for local elderly people by taking the predicted overflow from Crosslet.
The state this elderly woman was left in at a Meallmore home caused outrage.
Cllr Bollan, who labelled the proposed £1 million sale of Langcraigs as “scandalous”, has criticised the Council for centralising services, allowing the private care sector to move in and “make a profit from the care of our elderly”.
Council officers recommended approval of the Langcraigs sale. The reason given was that there is still a requirement for more care home beds locally, which begs the question why the Council did not take account of this when they built Crosslet House.
Why – if they thought it was a good idea – didn’t they make Crosslet bigger?
Why didn’t they provide additional community-based homes instead of knocking down the ones we already had?
Cllr Bollan said: “Once more people have been duped into believing the argument that big is better and the centralisation of care services for the elderly is good for them, only for it to be thrown back in their face by allowing the private care sector to take over Langcraigs and make a profit from the care of our elderly. Scandalous.”
In fairness, the new, £10 million Crosslet House, which replaces Willox Park and Dalreoch House, boasts a modern cinema room, outdoor terrace, internet rooms, gardens, hair salon and nail bar, provides 84 beds for elderly residents, particularly those with dementia.
The council officials’ report to committee stated: “The health and social care partnership consider that there is sufficient demand in the area for a further care home, and of the three currently closing, Langcraigs presents the best opportunity to permit refurbishment and expansion.”
Remarkably, Langcraigs is the one that’s now being knocked down.
There are plans for yet another care home for the elderly to be built at Garshake beside Baxter House, which is a special facility for vulnerable people.
Again we are talking about a site up in the Long Crags hills and at the back of beyond.
Have we something to be ashamed of here?
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.
Is this community having to put up with this because the SNP/Tory council tells us it has to balance its budget at a time when the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said they didn’t have to make any cuts at all?