The verdict is in. The process undertaken by the council to put care and support services out to tender should be halted. At last!
This coming Thursday, a reconvened meeting of the Finance and Resources Committee will be discussing the outcome of the independent review of the process (overview report available). In December last year, Deloitte were commissioned (at a cost of about £80,000) to review the tendering process for these services. The report from Deloitte received mid-January indicates that:
- the tendering process was neither as meticulous nor as thorough as might have been expected;
- the quality scorings of different tenders changed during the process; and
- the viability of the business case would need revisiting because of the higher than expected level of Direct Payment applications.
There are other fora to discuss the relative merits and details of the tenders, the quality rankings, and the Direct Payment levels. What this review outcome does highlight, however, is a structural problem within the Council’s working. Paul Edie, the Health, Housing and Social Care convener, stated several times, in public and private, that the process was robust, and that everything was fine. Jenny Dawe, the Council Leader agreed with him. Administration councillors flocked to their defense in meetings, brushing off the concerns of opposition councillors, some council officers, service users and their advocates, and union representatives, as mere politicking and scare-mongering. However, it appears that the concerns were well justified; if a superficial review undertaken in less than a month finds holes in the process, surely they were there for administration councillors and officers to see all along?
We must ask, then, why it took several council meetings, campaign deputations, and in camera discussions for the powers that be to realise that there were serious flaws in the process? Why did we need to cause so many vulnerable people so much distress? Why did we allow them to be further marginalised? Why did we ignore past experience of employees negatively affected by just such tendering processes?
I still struggle to find any convincing answers for these questions. I can only assume that Paul Edie and his colleagues are so determined to be ‘just different’ to previous Council Administrations that they do not care about the impacts their callous decisions have on people. They clearly didn’t show compassion in meetings with service users. They did not appreciate the effects on staff that the loss of local service providers would have. They did not seem to care that the loss of local providers, as larger contractors (the successful bidders) take over the service provision market, would have serious detrimental effects on communities and the people who live and work in them.
The current administration just doesn’t seem to care about people or communities; the short-term bottom line is all that matters to them. I, personally, don’t want to be a part of a council that treats its residents in this way, and I am very glad that this fiasco has ended the way it has. I am only sorry for all the distress caused in the mean time. The next few months are going to be interesting indeed!