After B&NES Labour Councillors expressed extreme concern about how the Council has handled the possible closure of Keynsham’s Charlton House Care Home, a key Scrutiny Panel has taken the unusual step of requesting the matter is brought back to Scrutiny before Cabinet can make a final decision.

Only a year after the regulator, the Care Quality Commission, graded this once much-loved care home as “inadequate” – leading to Conservative calls for Leader Kevin Guy and Cabinet Member for Adult Services Cllr Alison Born to resign – its complete closure is on the table.

Last January, Councillor Born told a cross-party scrutiny panel of Councillors that she was “extremely sorry” for what patients had been put through since B&NES took over the home in 2020. In March this year, residents, families and Councillors felt very reassured that B&NES was making long-term commitments to the home, installing solar panels and an air source heat pump. Celebrating the green initiatives in March, Councillor Born said, “Lighting and heating account for a significant proportion of the running costs of our care homes. The measures we’re introducing will help to reduce those bills freeing up funding to spend on caring for the most vulnerable in our communities.”

But just a few weeks ago, in mid-October, Councillors were shocked to read of a consultation to shut the home. This was especially surprising because they had asked Councillor Born about Charlton House at a scrutiny panel a week before (9th Oct). At that meeting, Councillor Born did not mention she was launching a consultation to close the home.

At the first possible opportunity - Cabinet on 9th November - Labour Leader Councillor Robin Moss (Westfield) asked Councillor Born when she had informed Councillors about the consultation. Councillor Born said she informed them in a report to October’s Scrutiny Panel. When she was pushed on this not being an adequate way of telling Councillors - when she was at a live meeting with them - her reply was, “I did make reference to the upcoming consultation in my last report to the PDS Panel and would have been happy to discuss it further, but it wasn’t picked up or raised at the meeting.”

The Panel in question – chaired by Councillor Dine Romero – does not appear to be satisfied with this response. At their first meeting since Councillor Born announced and launched the consultation, (Monday, 13th November), its Vice-Chair and Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, Liz Hardman (Paulton) said there was “concern and disappointment among us as a Panel that we weren’t involved about the possible consultation about the future of Charlton House – especially as we raised questions about it.”

Labour’s Lesley Mansell (Radstock) is pushing to ensure the Panel is able to fully review the Equality Impact Assessment before they submit their response to the consultation.

Councillor Liz Hardman stressed, “The Council’s lack of transparency is no way to treat these families and residents, who reasonably thought Charlton House’s future was secure. I urge people to take part in the consultation, so that B&NES fully understands local people’s care needs.”

In an LDRS story, John Wimperis included Councillor Born's statement: “The council is following a clear and transparent process to reach its decision on this. It is consulting until December 18th on proposals to reshape care for people being looked after in our three community resource centres, Cleeve Court, Combe Lea and Charlton House. These are difficult and sensitive issues as they concern people’s homes. We have held forums for staff, relatives, residents and the public, enabling them to respond to the proposed changes that affect all three homes and as cabinet member I have also responded to queries from individual councillors.

“Along with senior officers of the council I attended a drop-in session at Charlton House last week to discuss the proposals with families and residents, and I am listening closely to what is being said in the consultation. No decision has yet been made and we will consider carefully the views we receive before doing so.

“The council gave notice on October 3rd that I as cabinet member was considering approving consultation on the future delivery model for the council’s three community resource centres. The Children, Adults Health and Wellbeing PDS Panel was also informed on October 9th that there were plans for consultation on the future use of the Community Resource Centres.

“The decision report containing the consultation proposals, including for Charlton House, was published — alongside the Equalities Impact Assessment — on October 13th. The decision to consult on the proposals was made on November 1st. Following the expiry of the call-in period, the consultation began on November 9th. An update will be given to the PDS Panel on December 11th and the views of panel members will be fed into the consultation.

“The outcome paper will be bought to the PDS panel in the new year and a decision will then be taken.”

You can take part in the consultation here until December 18th.