Day centre funding increase blocked

A Labour councillor has warned that the future of the region’s day centres could be threatened after a council vote went against his party’s call for a funding increase. But his claims were dismissed as “scaremongering” by the leader of the council.

Stranraer Councillor Willie Scobie was annoyed that the Tory/Lib Dem administration of Dumfries and Galloway Council voted against his motion to increase day centre funding. He also rounded on two other Wigtownshire councillors for declaring an interest.

The Riverside Day Centre in Newton Stewart and the Coronation Day Centre in Stranraer rely on council cash to keep providing a service for the elderly and infirm of the region including a hot meal and the chance to socialise and take part in stimulating activities.

Speaking after the Council meeting, Councillor Scobie said: “On moving the motion to properly resource the day centres and further provide these with training to enable them to take on the higher level of dependency, it is essential that the Day Centres are recognised for the valuable services they currently provide and for the council to realise that they need to maintain these services while properly resourcing and offer training to those Centres that want to take on added higher level dependency services,

“We recognise the vital role day centres play in elderly care in our region.

“They offer a range of crucial services - social, physical and mental to assist the care of a vulnerable group in our society. The demographic of our population means that the pressure on day centres will increase, not decrease, and there has to be a clear strategy in place to handle this.

“I was disappointed and angry at all the Tories who supported the amendment against the Labour motion that called on a risk assessment to be carried out before any decision was taken on funding of day centres but, more importantly, the motion was about working with the day centres across Dumfries and Galloway to see what resources and training was needed for day centres to consider what added services they could consider while preserving existing services.

“I was more surprised at the SNP Group splitting over the issue with the majority of SNP Councillors supporting the Tories amendment.

“I was even more frustrated with the local Wigtown Councillors who walked out declaring a spurious interest on the matter without remaining to fight the corner of the Coronation and Riverside Day Centres.

“SNP Councillor Iain Dick and Tory Councillor Graham Nicol had no real reason, in my opinion, to declare an interest and it is now for these Councillors to consider their position and examine, as well as justifying to the day centres, what support they think they gave to the day centres when they walked out as they did at a crucial time when their votes were needed.”

Leader of the council, Ivor Hyslop, said: “This is more blatant scaremongering from the Labour Party. Firstly there are no requests for additional funding from any day centre sitting with the Director of Social Work as he confirmed at the meeting. Secondly the work that Councillor Scobies motion asked for, as confirmed by the Director of Social Work is already being undertaken and to start to separate out part of the work would slow down the whole process.

Finally the only group that are talking about closing Day Centres is the Labour group and I am wondering if they are planning to close them after May.”

Stranraer and North Rhins SNP Councillor Iain Dick replied: “As council representative on the management board of the Coronation Day Centre, I am obliged to register a conflict of interest.

“Mr Scobie has been a councillor long enough to know that the issue of funding is such an interest and obliges me to withdraw from any debate on that subject. He will also know that it is entirely a matter for each councillor to deal with a declaration of interest as he or she sees fit and it is most certainly entirely and wholly inappropriate for one councillor to question another in such matters. Councillors should account for their own actions and, indeed, motivations rather than question those of others.”

Mid Galloway Conservative Councillor Graham Nicol added: “I am the council’s representative on the day centre’s board and we were advised by Governance that it would be appropriate to declare an interest and leave the meeting as there could be funding implications being discussed.

“All the council representatives that are on day centre boards throughout Dumfries and Galloway left the meeting.”

Councillor Scobie has pledged to fight on for an increase for day centre funding.