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Council leader labelled as ‘tinpot dictator’ after silencing low care home fee objectors

Denbighshire County Council

A COUNCIL leader has been labelled a “tinpot dictator” for silencing a member who objected to the authority setting the lowest care home fees in Wales. Denbighshire County Council leader Jason McLellan pressed the mute button when Cllr Bobby Feeley criticised the council for a lack of care and compassion.

Cllr Feeley, Denbighshire’s former cabinet member for social services, was critical of Denbighshire accusing the council of not engaging with care homes, after the council set an 8.8% rise in contrast to neighbouring Conwy upping care home fees by between 18-20%.

Care Forum Wales now says there is a gap of more than £9,000 a year between what Denbighshire and Conwy pay for nursing care for an elderly person with dementia.

The decision has also led to harsh criticism from sector champions Care Forum Wales who represent around 500 social care providers.

Care Forum Wales chairman Mario Kreft said it was disgraceful that Cllr Feeley had been silenced by Denbighshire’s leader at the meeting last week at the council’s Ruthin County Hall HQ.

“Cllr Feeley was asking serious and legitimate questions when the leader pressed the mute button to ensure that she could not be heard,” he said.

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“She was quite rightly criticising the level of consultation ahead of the totally inadequate 8.8% increase in fees, which has been immediately wiped out by inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.

“According to Cllr Feeley, the council should have done more to engage with Care Forum Wales along with individual providers, and she was understandably unhappy there had been no meaningful dialogue with us.

“The pretence that the council has properly consulted social care providers in Denbighshire is a total sham, and the reason they don’t want to listen is that they are in denial about the true cost of providing care.

“Cllr McLellan is acting like a tin-pot totalitarian dictator in muting anybody who deigns to question this unjust regime in Denbighshire.

“Cllr Feeley knows what she is talking about because she was for a number of years the knowledgeable and well-respected lead member for social services. What Cllr McLellan doesn’t like is hearing the truth.

“Democracy is about accountability, and there is clearly no accountability in Denbighshire who shamefully have the lowest fees in the whole of Wales.”

Mr Kreft criticised Denbighshire for blaming the 8.8% rise on a poor local government settlement when the authority received the highest rise in North Wales.

“Citing the 3.8% settlement from the Welsh Government as an excuse just won’t wash, I’m afraid,” he said.

“Despite having a lower increase of around 2% in overall funding from the Welsh Government, Conwy Council have agreed considerably higher increases for care home fees of between 18% and 20%.

“The upshot is that Denbighshire will be paying £9,224 a year less per person than in Conwy for providing exactly the same level of nursing care to residents.

“It is beyond belief that Cllr McLellan and Cllr Ellen Heaton, the cabinet member for health and social care, should attempt to justify the absurd situation where an elderly person with dementia in Rhyl should be deemed to be worth £9,000 less than an elderly person just across the Foryd Bridge in Kinmel Bay.

“All we want is fairness in line with the Welsh Government’s ‘Let’s agree to agree’ guidance. Instead, we’ve had a generation of injustice, and it’s a generation where the institutional prejudice and discrimination against the private care sector, and Denbighshire Council are the embodiment of this injustice.

“It all adds up to an outrageous stealth tax on decent, hard-pressed families who will inevitably have to fund the shortfall themselves.”
He added, “The councillors who voted for these irresponsibly low rates in Denbighshire should be ashamed of themselves. The real victims of the heartless democratic deficit in Denbighshire are the vulnerable, mainly elderly people with dementia and other health issues for whom we provide care.”

Denbighshire County Council was contacted for a comment.

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