Norfolk and Suffolk PCC Conservative Candidates out and about

On Friday morning I joined Tim Passmore our Conservative candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner out in Mildenhall Market and where as previously not many people said they had heard of the election, many people said not only had they would be voting for Tim, his campaign really seems to be gathering momentum and that is because he is working hard travelling the length and breadth of the county unless some other candidates I could mention. Tim gets our rural communities and he gets the issues in places like Haverhill, Lowestoft and Ipswich as well; he has been out and about there regularly too.

On Saturday morning I travelled to Swaffham to be at Jamie Athill’s launch of his Manifesto before we went on a walk about around Swaffham Market. Again people seem to be waking up to the election now their polling card has appeared and I really loved the comment from one old boy when I mentioned other candidates and of Stephen Morphue he said “well he’d get a nose bleed this far west of Norwich”, couldn’t of put it better myself! Jamie is absolutely the right man for the job; he understands rural issues and will be a breath of fresh air helping the police serve their communities across Norfolk from the city issues in Norwich to the smallest rural hamlets.

Hard Choices

On 22nd April I blogged about the visits I and county officers made to the Care Homes across Suffolk that would directly be effected by our PFI Funding bid for three new state of the Art Care Homes we were planning to build; and the many great people, staff, carers and customers that we met.

Now that seems like an age ago and the KEEP CALM and CARRY ON attitude towards the finances of this country has rightly been replaced with a realism about the national debt and the need to get it under control.

But for us that means we have hard choices to make about the things we want to do and the things we can afford to do. Simply put we do not have the budget to carry on with the proposals.

At the Cabinet meeting Tuesday I presented a paper and reiterated an important principle, at an unprecedented time of change in local government, we must be prepared to take difficult decisions if we are to provide, value for money and maintain essential services to Suffolk taxpayers.

This is why one I proposed we take is stopping work to pursue a Public Finance Initiative project to create three new care homes in Suffolk.  In making that decision I thought long and hard about the potential missed opportunity but can clearly justify my thinking for three reasons:

  1. Our financial assessment showed that the project would cost the county council an additional £3m in the first five years. This is simply unaffordable in the current economic climate.
  2. The county council owns 17 care homes and operates 16 of them. While the PFI credits would have benefited part of our overall estate, replacing four of the homes with three new ones, we need to consider the homes estate as a whole. This should be within the wider context of a need to develop a range of services for older people to meet their changing expectations. Options must be affordable, sustainable, and most importantly be truly fit for purpose.  
  3.  Our care homes provide a range of services which are important for the wellbeing of many older people, but we cannot provide these services in isolation. As part of Suffolk’s Flexicare vision, we must ensure we are working with partners to consider the long-term needs for older people in Suffolk. This includes delivering better services in a climate in which a growing ageing population will push up demand for services and when people expect to be able to have more choice and control over the care and support they need.

That said at this time I believe it is more important for us to consider how we can work smarter and more effectively, by reviewing alternative options to meet the needs of all older people in the coming years. 

Our work to develop the PFI option included a period of consultation earlier this year, which produced valuable and insightful feedback from many people.

Just before I wrap up my blog and as I said on Tuesday in presenting the papers I would like to publicly thank everyone who took the time to send in their comments about the PFI proposals and in particular those good people who took the time to meet myself and the team as we presented the proposals to people living in Mildenhall, Haverhill and Lowestoft; and would like to reassure them that their feedback will most definitely influence my consideration of future proposals.

Visits to Care Homes to discuss New Homes

Over the past couple of weeks I have been visiting Care Homes in Mildenhall, Lowestoft and Haverhill.

The tour was to meet with the Customers, Families, Carers and Staff at each home that will be relocated to three brand new homes if our bid for £30M of PFI Credits is successful which will allow the County Council to build 3 new Care Homes in the county over the next 4 years.

At each home I and a small team of Officers went through what and why we are building new homes and was a great opportunity to hear and learn what residents and their families wanted from our outline proposals. If you were one of those who came along thank you for taking the time to come and listen to what I hope was helpful information about our proposals to build a fantastic new care home facilities as part of a round of investment of £30million pounds for older people in Suffolk.

These meetings were residents opportunity not only to find out more, but to ask questions and have your say on the proposals.

We took along a scale model that intentionally was not meant to be any sort of finished model but to demonstrate the concept about what we are thinking to achieve and it proved quite a talking point at each presentation.

The first question we tried to answer was why we were thinking of bulding new homes. All 16 of the County Council care homes in Suffolk are rated core either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ according to the Care Quality Commission and the homes we visited were no exception.

I personally think this is both reassuring and points to the high standard of care for older people in Suffolk we currently and want to in the future provide.

However, we know that the demand for care will increase in future with a growing older population and more people who will have special care needs, particularly associated with dementia or memory difficulties and other issues.

We need to plan for this demand increase this means meeting the standards of excellence expected of care homes in the 21st Century, supported by research which shows that careful building design can be a tremendous aid to people’s health and wellbeing. We want to reflect this in our homes and meet the high expectations of the people we serve.

Of course, our main focus is to support people to live independent lives at home wherever possible, but when that is no longer achievable, we have a duty to ensure that we can provide the best care and support wherever people live.

So if the proposals go ahead, all the residents in the four homes we visited will be able to move into a new home in 2015 in their town, and we will help them prepare for the move well in advance and all along the way.

What we prosing will be cutting edge and what we actually mean by modern cutting edge is a home that in the background is efficient with modern kitchens and the best equipped bathrooms etc., but at the same time is designed as, you or I, would want it to be.

I think the danger when you here about a larger home is that you might think that it will be some large impersonal institution and that is absolutely not what it will be.

It will be design around small clusters of rooms to deliver a home within a home, warn, friendly, a place where residents will get to keep the friendships they have built up with their neighbours in their home and those who care for them.

We got lots of very useful and interesting feedback that will become an integral part of my thinking as we finalise our plans to bid for Government Money to build the new homes.

%d bloggers like this: