CAMPAIGNERS last night persuaded councillors to look again at plans to privatise care for vulnerable adults.
Council carers currently provide intensive help to people with complex needs and a small proportion of routine care.
Kirklees Council wants to privatise this routine work – meaning the council’s share of the care sector would drop from 17.5% to 15%.
Officers claim the move would save taxpayers £1.3m a year.
But trade unionists fear that more privatisation will endanger vulnerable adults.
Unison forced councillors to hold a special debate on the controversial move after submitting a petition with more than 8,000 signatures last month.
Speaking at last night’s monthly council meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall, petition organiser Kathleen McHendry called on councillors to think again.
“I’m not saying that all private providers are bad, but they don’t have the same training or the same pay and conditions,” she said.
“Watching a 20-minute video on manual handling doesn’t compare with a one-and-a-half day course.”
Ms McHendry told councillors that Kirklees carers did a better job than private staff.
“We get better pay and we are paid for our travel time,” she said. “This means it’s a job we value and are committed to. Less pay results in a higher turnover of staff.”
Holme Valley independent Clr Edgar Holroyd-Doveton agreed with Ms McHendry.
He told last night’s monthly meeting of Kirklees: “Time and time again we’ve seen that this ‘marketisation’ model doesn’t work. We need to retain a public service ethos.”
But Conservative Clr Liz Smaje defended private care companies.
The Birstall and Birkenshaw woman said: “There’s no evidence that those who work hard in the independent sector can’t provide quality of service. The public sector does not have a monopoly on compassion.”
Heckmondwike Labour man Clr David Sheard pointed out that private carers provided 19,000 hours of care every week in Kirklees while council staff did just 4,000. However, last year there were 11 formal complaints against Kirklees staff and 22 against private employees.
He added: “We should find a way to compete with the private sector on price if we want to keep the service in-house.
“To imply that all private care is bad care is not doing a service to the people who receive that care.”
Councillors then decided to “commission further investigation” into the privatisation plan. Labour and Lib Dems voted in favour while Conservatives abstained.