The Plastic Hippo

June 19, 2013

Lullaby of Broadway North

Filed under: Health,Politics,Rights,Society,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 2:14 am
Come on along and listen to

Come on along and listen to

When Harry Warren and Al Dubin wrote the stand out song from the smash hit musical comedy Gold Diggers of 1935, they did not realise the relevance to Walsall Gold Diggers of 2013. Tonight (Wednesday), the secretive cabinet of decision makers at Walsall council will once again be tap dancing on the table in an attempt at distracting us from a great depression.

On the agenda is the forward plan. The existence of an actual plan might come as something of a surprise to most residents but worry not, it`s only a piece of paper and the real plan will remain firmly under wraps. There is also a plan for food law safety, a discussion on corporate financial performance and a necessarily brief peek at something called medium term financial strategy and capital strategy. This part of the meeting is not likely to take up too much time and will probably involve the question: “has there been some performance and is there a strategy?” Upon receiving the answer “yes”, the cabinet will move on to the next agenda item involving the expensive and inconvenient duty to provide social care. This too will not take long as decisions have been taken well away from the prying eyes of the public. The meeting will conclude with a private session set aside to panic over the unholy mess that cabinet has made of the Darlaston Strategic Development Area. For all the wishful thinking, there is no gold to be found under Darlo, yet cabinet keep digging.

Rewind back to the inconvenient bit about a duty to provide social care. Buried amongst the assisted transport policy, the accommodation based service tender and the operating model for adult social care and inclusion is “commissioning mental health services” particularly regarding the Broadway North Centre. Now look…stop laughing…these are serious issues and there are boxes to be ticked and vulnerable people to abandon in order to fund councillor allowances and Primark. Laughing at inept councillors isn`t going to regenerate the borough, you know. A report will be agreed on the nod that will end residential crisis care at Broadway North Resource Centre.

This report recommends
that offering a place of safety, comfort and care to residents of Walsall who are unfortunate enough to experience an episode of isolation, mental illness or utter despair does not provide “value for money”. To quote the authors of the report:
“The review recommends that the Council consider the closure of the residential element of Broadway North Centre and that alternative equivalent provision is purchased from the independent sector. The closure of the bedded facilities will save money to the Council whilst increasing the opportunity to develop the community resources on the site.”
The report then sets out some rather questionable data proving that bed occupancy is only 62.8 per cent or just six and a bit beds out of ten. It then states that “the number of beds required is less than six” which suggests that the authors seem to have some difficulty grasping the basics of not just mathematics but also the basics of crisis mental health care and the alarming increase in mental health needs. As for the private sector offering “value for money” provision, it would seem that the authors and councillors are unable to access a search engine of their choice and enter the search term “Winterbourne View”. The Broadway North facility also offers some respite for the carers of adults suffering with poor mental health. This basic humanity clearly does not represent “value for money” to a generally overweight cabinet and the message to carers who save the council millions of pounds every year is “tough, get on with it. Primark is more important than you.” The usual sham consultation has been offered.

Rewind again to October 2011. The completely inadequate and invariably ignored scrutiny system in Walsall that is supposed to hold cabinet to account invited “service users” or “clients” or “customers” or whatever people in need of help are described as this week to offer evidence of the value of the Broadway North Centre. To quote the council press release dated October 7 2011, the Social Care and Inclusion Scrutiny and Performance Panel heard that:
“Service users explained how they felt the centre had saved many lives and said they were fearful of respite being withdrawn. They said its tranquil environment created a more family friendly facility than a hospital and its crisis intervention could often prevent a lengthy hospital stay. The `whole person` is treated with alternative therapies such as acupuncture complimenting conventional medicine. People said their confidence had grown as a result of being able to take part in art courses leading to a BTEC qualification and a catering project to help develop skills for employment. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was also credited with helping them to hold down jobs or make plans to return to work. Broadway North should be expanded and enhanced and held up as a beacon to other areas where there is no similar service.”

So what has changed since those noble words were issued by Walsall council and why will allowance hungry cabinet members agree to closure? All this took place before Walsall was ruled by a coalition and we now have a lone voice of opposition at the cabinet table in the avuncular shape of Liberal Democrat Ian Shires. Surely he will speak up for the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. Err…no. When a planning application was submitted for a private sector mental health facility in his neck of the woods, Sergeant Wilson and his “nephew“ Private Pike did their collective nuts. No distasteful pun intended. Responding to “uproar” from local constituents that Meadow House would be a facility for people suffering from mild mental health issues and so should not be placed anywhere near families and schools, the two councillors embarked on a noble campaign to secure the votes of the mob mentality. Do the good people of the mid-west not realise that it is in fact Michael Gove who is bonkers? It is, of course, entirely coincidental that the Broadway North Centre is situated in a ward that is represented by two Conservative cabinet members and that one of them is actually the portfolio holder for social care. “Goodnight baby…let`s call it a day”.

The hip hooray and ballyhoo of cabinet will yet again mask an astonishing abrogation of civic duty and no more caring lullabies will be heard on Broadway North. “Sleep tight, service user…closure`s on its way.”


  1. I am distressed over this news and it was sadly always on the cards because in Tory world state is bad regardless of the fantastic service at Brioadway North.

    I have sat in the canteen staffed by residents (for free) and it provides a great service for those who are vulnerable because of no fault of anyone. To see the smiles of people there away from the stress of normal life is a life affirming experience. I will forward this blog piece onto Tim Oliver for Labour group comments.

    Comment by ianrobo — June 20, 2013 @ 9:25 am | Reply

  2. Perhaps Tim will also look at the declaration of interests of the cabinet member with the portfolio for social care, particularly in respect of renting out her home, and also which organisation is currently moving in to Broadway North.

    Comment by Geoff — June 20, 2013 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

  3. I guess on the first point up to others to check and confirm.

    On the second point you can tell us which organisation that is.

    Comment by ianrobo — June 20, 2013 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

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