At last night’s first ever meeting of the Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Education Committee, the Labour led group ignored all opposition and pushed through with their plans to close the Arthur Clark Care Home and Albert Road Day Centre.
It was an emotional meeting, with the gallery full of Reading residents keen to see the care home and day centre stay open. It was humbling to see this varied group of people putting across their hopes and fears so passionately and clearly to the committee.
The Lib Dem Group opposed the closure of both facilities. We felt more consideration needed to be given to the suggestions made by the residents, their families and the local community north of the river. The ‘Save Our Home’ group had also raised key questions that we did not feel that the council papers answered. We wanted the Labour group to give the committee time to look at for the creative solutions the group had come up with and for the questions they had raised to be answered in full.
Although it will be of little comfort to the families affected by last night’s decision, the Labour group at least took notice of the Lib Dem view that, if they went ahead with the closures, they were in danger of being accused of short term profiteering (as any Reading person knows how much land in Caversham Heights is worth to developers). I said in the full Council meeting that they needed to promise publically to keep the land for elderly care provision north of the river. They have now committed themselves to building ‘Extra Care Housing and community based services’ on that site. A small concession, but perhaps the best we could have hoped for.
I spoke with one gentleman afterwards, he told me that he was not surprised with the outcome. He said that the residents and their families had always believed that the consultation process was a sham and that the decision had been made a long time before the meeting.
As a firm believer in the democratic process, I wanted to tell him he was wrong, but unfortunately, in Reading, Labour hold the casting vote on everything and so, despite all the other political parties being united in opposition to this proposal, the Labour group were, as always, able to get what they wanted.
Labour have made much of their ‘Let’s Talk’ consultation programme in Reading, perhaps they should stop talking and start listening to residents instead.
Councillor Meri O’Connell, Reading Lib Dem Lead Councillor for Adult and Children’s social care and Education.