Lib Dems challenge Tory county council over respite care closures

A challenge to the closure of three respite centres for adults with disabilities in St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Bishops Stortford has been launched by Liberal Democrat councillors.

The respite centres facing closure are Hixberry Lane in St Albans, Tewin Road in Hemel Hempstead and Apton Road in Bishops Stortford.

The decision to close the centres was made by Conservative-led Herts County Council’s cabinet on 24 February – despite the council having received a 1,500-strong petition against the closures.

Liberal Democrat councillors have now blocked the move and forced a review of the reasons for the decision to close the centres.

Objections raised by parents and carers
The Lib Dems have presented the Conservative council with a 14-point argument that seriously criticises the decision and supports many of the objections raised by parents and carers in Hertfordshire.

In particular, they attack the decision to close the three centres before a new strategy has been developed and alternative provision agreed with the 80 families affected.

Councillor Ron Tindall, Liberal Democrat opposition spokesperson for adult care services, who is leading the challenge, said: “Before closing any homes, Hertfordshire Care Services must focus on the needs of the care users and their families.

Failed to make the case
“The new strategy and provision have to be developed with and accepted by the users of the respite centres before any doors are slammed in their faces.”

Councillor Chris White, county councillor for St Albans central division, said: “Herts County Council manifestly failed to make the case at its panel meeting and yet the administration pressed ahead regardless.

“This was despite the uncertainties around the future for the service and individual families that were freely admitted in the background papers.

Proper engagement with families
“These proposals are a mistake and should be withdrawn so that there can be proper engagement with the families about the structure of this particular service.”

The review is scheduled to take place at County Hall on Wednesday, 11 March.

News update – 11 March, 2020:  Conservatives on Herts County Council have overturned the attempt by Liberal Democrats to halt the closure of the three respite centres.

Lib Dem councillors argued at special scrutiny committee meeting that the decision to make the closures was premature and had been taken before the council had worked through a number of assumptions, conducted a detailed study and planning stage with parents and users, and had created an alternative model of care and respite that would be an improvement on the present position.

But the Tory cabinet member for adult care responded that the centres had to close before any work could be undertaken on the creation of the alternative scheme.

After the decision Cllr Ron Tindall, Lib Dem shadow cabinet member for adult care services, said: “The council has got it wrong and the closures should be delayed until the new alternative scheme is available. To do anything less is to place at risk some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

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