The future of Fife Council’s care homes has been thrown back into uncertainty after the local authority failed to find a suitable provider to take on the service.
Only two private companies submitted tenders to build new homes to replace the 10 homes earmarked for closure, but neither was considered suitable by the council.
The two submissions were rejected by an evaluation panel last week following a procurement process which closed on September 19.
Social work chairman Tim Brett denied the council’s plans were now in crisis and said it was committed to caring for elderly residents for as long as necessary.
The latest revelation effectively puts it back at square one, and calls have once again been made for the controversial proposals to be scrapped.
The cash-strapped council voted in February to close all 10 of its care homes and move residents to private sector or not-for-profit homes once they were built.
Amid a storm of protest, the SNP-Lib Dem administration defended what was described as one of the council’s most controversial decisions of recent times, saying its homes were deteriorating and the precarious financial situation meant it had no choice but to look to the private sector.
Assurances were given that no homes would close until alternative accommodation became available, although it is now unclear when or if this will happen.
Mr Brett was disappointed the council did not receive any offers it could accept and revealed executive director of social work Stephen Moore had been asked to come up with alternative proposals.
”We had understood from informal discussions that took place there would be more interest,” said Mr Brett. ”We can only speculate as to why that’s not the case and I think the current economic climate was one of the factors.
”I’ve asked Stephen Moore if he will now take stock and come back to my committee in November with proposals as to what we do next.”
Stating that in the meantime it was ”absolutely business as usual,” Mr Brett added: ”We have 10 good care homes with excellent staff. Our priority is to continue to look after the people in the homes and that, we will continue to do.
”There is certainly no crisis and we will continue with the present arrangements for the foreseeable future.”
Mr Brett said other opportunities could include looking for an interested social enterprise to take over the care home provision.
”We probably didn’t have time to look at that properly earlier in the year,” he added.
The council will also discuss with operators that had expressed an interest why they did not make submissions through the procurement process.
Labour councillor Mike Rumney said the situation was continuing to cause concern among residents, their families and care home staff, and called for a moratorium on the issue to allow for further discussions.
”It comes as no great surprise only two interested organisations have bothered to submit proposals which have not met the required minimum standard,” he said.
”We have said all along that the privatisation of residential care for some of the most vulnerable elderly people in our local communities is wrong and this failure only compounds our fears.
”What kind of message does this send out to older people, carers and the best, most caring and professional of staff employed by the council?”
Mr Rumney added: ”I am calling for urgent cross-party discussions on any possible way forward not only on the whole issue of what is obviously a hell bent SNP-Lib Dem policy of privatisation but the greatly important and immediate future of how we care for our more senior citizens.”
Labour leader Alex Rowley also urged the administration to end its ”obsession” with privatising care homes services. It should instead look towards securing the long-term future of the homes in the public sector, he said.
Meanwhile, Rona Laing, head of older people’s services with Fife Council, has moved to quell panic. She said the welfare of service users and their families was the priority.
”We have written to service users, their families and staff to inform them of the procurement process outcome and our care home managers are the first point of contact for any queries they may have,” she said.
”There will be no change to the service we deliver. It will be business as usual as we continue to safeguard the welfare of our service users.”