Henderson's anger at homes sell-off

AN MP has voiced "total opposition" to possible plans to transfer elderly people's homes into the private sector.Ivan Henderson, Labour MP for Harwich, claimed there could be no benefits of taking the service out of Essex County Council's hands.

AN MP has voiced "total opposition" to possible plans to transfer elderly people's homes into the private sector.

Ivan Henderson, Labour MP for Harwich, claimed there could be no benefits of taking the service out of Essex County Council's hands.

He has written to the council outlining his opposition to any changes.

There are currently formal consultations about the 12 remaining elderly people's homes to see if other providers could supply a better service.


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Yesterday the authority, which has committed itself to budget cuts to avoid heavy increases in next year's council tax, said it was essential to secure greater bed capacity in the county.

Mr Henderson said he was against the proposals because there was no certainty the facilities would remain if placed into the private sector.

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He said: "I am against such a move because there are no guarantees of the facilites for the elderly remaining once they are in private ownership and much needed residential beds could be lost through change of use over which the county council would have no control.

"The county council would be forced to contract into the services being provided by these homes and would simply have to pay the increased rate charged by the private sector for use of what are council owned facilities."

Mr Henderson added the current levels of service provided by the staff in the council owned residential homes was "excellent".

"Their commitment and loyalty deserves the long-term assurance of conditions of employment that cannot be guaranteed within the private sector," he added.

He called for the issue to be thoroughly investigated as part of the consultation process.

David Finch, the Essex county councillor with responsibility for finance and resources, said the consultation process had already started before the current budget cuts were put on the table.

He said: "Essex County Council is seeking to secure greater capacity by 2006 in terms of elderly people's needs and to provide better services.

"At the moment there is a capacity for about 6000 beds, of which we are using 3300, the others are private ones or have been purchased by other local authorities.

"Our evidence shows that the private sector has demonstrated it can deliver improved services and by putting the long-term service with providers it becomes their responsibility to build and improve the homes."

He said by 2006 an additional 310 beds would be needed and said the jobs of any staff moving across to the private sector would be protected by regulations.

"The budget cuts are not the reason for looking at this – it is coincidental because the issue has been under scrutiny since June 2002," he added.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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