Care home decision is not the way forward

Save Primrose Hill campaigners, from left, Angela and David Morton, Karlis Obrams and Irene Taylor pictured after the Leeds meeting. (S)
Save Primrose Hill campaigners, from left, Angela and David Morton, Karlis Obrams and Irene Taylor pictured after the Leeds meeting. (S)

There’s absolutely no doubt that my official duties are back into full swing.

This week sees both the monthly meeting of Wetherby Town Council and the latest full meeting of Leeds City Council, both of which require a good deal of preparation.

We have a standard agenda for the Town Council with a wide range of issues that either have to be formally reported to councillors or that require decisions to be made.

All payments by the council come to the meeting for formal approval and scrutiny by the council before the Deputy Mayor and I sign them off.

We receive a crime report from the police, a financial report from the clerk and reports back from any of our committees that have met since our last full meeting.

We will receive among others, a report from the planning committee, the property committee, the Welcome to Wetherby group and a number of others.

While those committees have some decisions making powers delegated to them, it is often the full council who are the decision makers.

There is a slot at the start of every meeting for local residents to raise any issues which are concerning them and it is often these deputations which lead to some of the big projects the Town Council undertakes.

One example of this is all the work which has been done at Sandringham Park, now such a great success story for the town, which stemmed from a large group of residents attending to address the council.

We often have presentations from guests for a variety of reasons.

In the last year, we had a number of visits by ASDA, we had a presentation from Leeds City Council’s Adult Social Care team about Primrose Hill Care Home, we heard from the Crime Prevention Panel and last month we had a visit from the developers who are looking to build older peoples accommodation on the former Benfield Ford site.

Town Council meetings are public meetings and it would be great to see more members of the public attend to see what we do and to make suggestions about things they’d like to see done for the town.

Coming back to Primrose Hill, you will probably be aware that the Executive Board of Leeds City Council took a decision to halt new admissions and close the care home once the last resident no longer requires care.

If you believe the spin by the council, this is some sort of victory for those campaigning to keep it open.

If they had just decided to close the home and re-house the current residents, I think it would have been an appallingly short sighted decision, in many ways, what they have done is worse.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a huge relief in the short term to residents and families alike that they won’t have to move and lose their friendship groups and local support but at some point in the future, a care home that has the capacity for over 30 residents will have only one or two occupants.

I do not believe that is a dignified way for anyone to see out the remaining years of their life.

The challenge of how we care for a growing elderly population is a great one and there is no doubt that the way we care for people in their final years will have to change but it cannot be right to take a facility away when you have no plan for a suitable replacement.

There is a chronic shortage of places for elderly people in our area, an almost non-existent supply of respite care beds and an appalling lack of transitional beds available when people have been hospitalised which puts additional strain on the health service.

There are many ways that Primrose Hill, a much loved and needed resource for our community, could be kept open for the long term as campaigners have so ably demonstrated.

I am aware that a private operator has contacted the Director of Adult Social Care at the council on three occasions to offer to buy the property in order to retain it as a care home.

The operator has not even had the courtesy of a reply.

With my ward councillor hat on, I can tell you that we will not let this decision go ahead without a fight.

My colleagues and I will be calling this decision in to a scrutiny enquiry with the intention of having it re-considered.

We genuinely believe there is a far better solution that would be better for the taxpayers of Leeds, that would provide a care home which is much needed in our community for many years to come and would give current residents and their families deserved piece of mind and security for the remainder of their lives.

There are some care homes in our city which should be closed because they are simply not fit for purpose anymore; Primrose Hill is not one of them.

In the City Council chamber on Wednesday, I will be pressing the case to the other 98 elected members in the hope they will see sense.