Contracts for carers to get green light

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to contract out care for some of the city's most vulnerable residents look set to be pushed through.

The plans to hand 11 contracts to new firms were put on hold a fortnight ago after a marathon council meeting in the City Chambers following protests from opposition councillors.

The issue is to be discussed at a specially-convened finance meeting tomorrow.

A report by city council officials ahead of the meeting has called for councillors to vote through the proposals on the same terms.

Officials have refused to change their proposals on "direct payments", where clients are given money to take the employment of carers into their own hands.

Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the city council, today said he expects the Liberal Democrat/SNP administration to force the issue through under the original terms. It would mean that nearly 800 people with learning and physical disabilities, hearing impairments or mental health issues would face getting a new carer.

The re-tendering is expected to save the council nearly 5.5 million over three years when compared to the existing contracts, which are run by a range of voluntary organisations.

Cllr Burns said: "We have never tried to stop the contracts, but to make conditions that are more appealing. If this goes through as originally proposed it will be disastrous for many, many users."

The original Labour amendment – which put the plans on hold for a fortnight until officials provided a new report with further details – was only passed after Lib Dem councillor Gary Peacock declared a financial interest as a member of staff for one of the firms that is to lose its contract.

Opposition councillors voted together giving them a 29-28 majority. But tomorrow's finance committee meeting will be attended by seven Lib Dem or SNP councillors and only six opposition councillors, meaning the administration will be in a position to push through the issue.

Housing leader Paul Edie, who is not a member of the finance committee and will not be able to vote tomorrow, said: "I have said all along that we have a good robust tendering process that has been cleared by the lawyers at every stage."

He added: "The quality component is very strong in this process. I've been giving strong consistent messages about this and the process is about 70 per cent quality and 30 per cent price."

The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland said that every person with a disability will "pay the price to protect Councillor Paul Edie's career".

However, David Griffiths, chief executive of city disabled organisation Ecas, said: "I do think some of the lobbying from other groups has got personal and gone too far, and that cannot be good.

"But the council's communication on this from the start has been appalling. They should have tried to take disabled people with them rather than antagonise them. What we see now is people who are scared and don't really understand what is happening."