Thursday, 16 September 2010

Highland Councillors look to investors to finance £18m upgrade of local authority buildings

Campaigners hit out over plans to privatise care homes
By Laura Paterson
Published: 16/09/2010

Local campaigners have hit out at councillors deciding to canvass private sector interest in taking over care homes currently run by the local authority.

At yesterday’s housing and social work committee meeting in Inverness, it was agreed to seek interest from the private sector over building new care homes at Duthac House in Tain and Urray House in Muir of Ord.

Director of social work Bill Alexander told the meeting that upgrading the care homes was not the best use of the council’s money.

He said refurbishing the homes would cost £280,000 initially, and £18million over the next five years. Both homes have rooms which fall short of standards on space and lack private bathrooms.

But Highland MSP Rob Gibson said the council was not reflecting the view of local residents.
He said: “There are many aspects that make Duthac House dearly loved by the residents of Tain and the elderly people who live there.
“This is not playing politics, but reflecting the views of the majority of people in Tain.”

Molly Doyle, secretary of the Highland Senior Citizen’s Network, said they were “not happy” about the plans and feared the private sector would provide a poorer service.
She added: “We want them to stay within the local authority.”

At the meeting, Tain councillor Alasdair Rhind said going to the private sector was the way forward for Duthac House and accused Mr Gibson of playing politics with local residents in his opposition to the proposals.

Dingwall and Seaforth councillor, Margaret Paterson, said both care homes were in poor condition. She said: “It’s not my preferred option to have an independent provider, but we really have no option.”

The committee chairman, Margaret Davidson, said: “While our staff have striven to make the buildings homely, the nature and design of both buildings militates against this, and patching up the homes does not make economic sense.

“There is no doubt that both Muir of Ord and Tain require care home provision and we have the unanimous agreement of the committee to test the market to identify an independent provider who will invest in modern and high quality residential care homes.”

Essential upgrades to both homes will take place in the meantime.

The committee also agreed to upgrade facilities at three other care homes – Ach-an-Eas in Inverness, Grant House in Grantown, and Invernevis in Fort William.

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