Would Labour apologise to the vulnerable residents it's been letting down?
03/12/2018 23:43:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
Tonight the Conservatives put forward a motion for debate at the Council meeting:
This Council needs to do more to protect its most vulnerable residents – and apologises to all those it has let down to date.
A simple question, and you would think they'd be able to answer. Throughout the evening many of my councillor colleagues had raised serious cases of vulnerable people being let down by the Council:
- Cllr Perry referenced a much-loved South Norwood business, closed because of a Council planning application. They were promised help by the Council, but none came.
- Cllr Hale described a single mother, forced to sleep with her children in a car, refused Council housing appointments for weeks at a time. Since 2015 the Council hasn't completed one single affordable or Council house.
- Cllr Streeter referenced the difficulties 98-year-old Shirley resident was having sorting out her neglected waste collections, only able to be helped thanks to the persistence of her neighbours.
- Cllr Brew referenced a block of flats on the Brighton Road where vulnerable elderly people are living - where their food waste has not been collected since the summer.
- Cllr Stranack spoke of a widow in his ward, seeking help through the Council system and unable to speak to a real person for weeks at a time.
There were numerous other worrying examples shared, and to their credit many of the Labour Cabinet members offered public apologies for the failure in service.
It's this that made what followed so disappointing. Here was my speech, opening the debate this evening:
Tonight we have heard dozens of examples of this Labour Council failing our most vulnerable residents.
We’ve heard about small businesses closing saying it’s due to a lack of support from the Council, hurting our district centres and destroying the livelihoods of many of our residents.
We’ve heard that since 2015 Labour have not finished one, single affordable or Council house – with many hundreds left stranded on the housing waiting list.
We’ve heard about elderly, vulnerable residents, living among their refuse, left to rot for months on end and when they ask for help with their assisted collection they are ignored for weeks at a time.
We’ve heard that immunisation of our young people is among the worst in London. We know that health visitors have such huge caseloads that they aren’t able to support the many vulnerable families who need their support. Out of 6000 babies born in Croydon every year, 858 will experience physical abuse, 720 will have parents with mental health problems and 1320 will experience parental separation.
We all know about Ofsted’s damning children’s services report which revealed in its update just last month that this Council is still suffering from ‘drift and delay’ - leaving vulnerable children in worrying circumstances for far too long.
Madam Mayor, it’s not just children. We know that when vulnerable adults try to access the contact centre for support, they are often left unaided and unacknowledged.
Earlier this year Council had to pay out thousands of pounds to ‘a young man with complex needs’ for ‘failure to provide suitable respite care’ which caused him and his carer ‘extreme distress.’
Throughout the complaint, the Social Care Ombudsman was ‘concerned by the Council’s lack of engagement’. It took a total of 12 weeks for the Council to respond to his enquires. Then when the Ombudsman drafted a report, the Council failed to respond to that! He said: ‘this was particularly concerning given the significant failings identified by the investigation and the resultant injustice to a young man with complex disabilities and his carer.’
This is not an isolated case. There were 226 other complaints made this year alone.
Now, this motion asks Labour to accept what they have already accepted via the Ombudsman – that they must to more to protect our most vulnerable residents – and it asks that they apologise to those they have let down to date.
I hope – I sincerely hope – that the Labour speakers following me are going to be humble, that given the mountain of evidence presented this evening, that they will accept that an apology isn’t an unreasonable request, and that it’s the least our residents deserve.
Madam Mayor, I sadly support this necessary motion and hope Labour does too.
Cllr Newman, the Labour Leader of the Council, was next up to speak - at least in theory. What followed was a shouted and intensely negative set of ad hominem attacks. An angry, rambling rant the likes of which I've never experienced in my over four years of being on the Council. He was incoherent, he was illogical, he was frankly embarrassing. Despite Labour Cllrs Collins, Butler and Avis apologising to varying degrees during the meeting, despite all the factual evidence listed throughout the evening by my colleagues and by me (including the legal pay-outs demanded by the Ombudsman), Cllr Newman and his Labour councillors seemed incapable of accepting themselves culpable for the shocking service they are offering our residents.
Labour voted against our polite, considered and factually accurate motion. A tremendous shame.
I'll post the link to the footage as soon as it's up so you can see for yourself and make your own judgement about how the debate progressed.
With a temper tantrum like the one we saw tonight, and the denial that seems to be gripping our Labour Council, I fear that our most vulnerable residents are far from getting the support and the services that they deserve.