Coalition vote defeat leaves Edinburgh Council care service plans in chaos

PLANS to re-tender the care services provided to some of the Capital's most vulnerable residents have been dramatically put on hold following a marathon council meeting.

Police had to be called to control the crowds as around 300 people packed into the City Chambers to hear the debate on the proposals, which would have led to people with learning and physical disabilities, mental health or hearing impairments having to get used to a new carer.

The council coalition fell to its first defeat since taking power two-and-a-half years ago after a stormy meeting that lasted nearly ten hours and went on into the evening.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Housing and social care leader Paul Edie, who was continually heckled from the public galleries, today bemoaned the "bad tempered" and "personal" nature of the debate, and warned that the council could now have to find urgent savings elsewhere and even face legal action over the decision, but opposition councillors hailed the result, which came about after Conservative councillors sided with Labour and the Greens.

The opposition groups won by one vote after Lib Dem councillor Gary Peacock withdrew from the vote because he has a financial interest as an employee of one of the existing providers.

Cllr Leslie Hinds, health and social care spokeswoman for the Labour group on the city council, said: "Common sense has prevailed and the majority of the council has listened to what users and carers have told us."

The decision means the re-tendering has been put on hold until further details on issues including direct payments, where clients are given money by the council to take the employment of carers into their own hands, and the legal ramifications will be discussed at a finance meeting.

Under council standing orders, the finance committee will have to be provided with evidence of a "material change of circumstances" to enable it to overturn yesterday's full council decision.

Cllr Edie said that he doesn't know if it will be possible to allow the tenders, due to be finalised by 5 December, to go ahead.

He said cancelling them now means 600,000 of other budget savings will have to be found before next April.

Green councillor Maggie Chapman, whose finance committee amendment led to the matter going to full council, said: "Going out to tender is just not necessary. Across the UK, it's been shown not to be the most effective way."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Earlier, nearly a dozen presentations were made by care clients. A special sound system had to be set up in another room for more than 150 people who weren't able to get into the main chamber.

Among those who spoke at the meeting were two sisters whose mother suffers from mental health problems, representative groups, deaf and disabled people and others with learning disabilities.

Douglas Kerr, a committee member of Share Scotland, said: "Some of these providers are like own-brand beans in supermarkets. Yes they are beans, but only just, and you wouldn't want to put up with them every day."