Locked in industrial strife with its own employees, Macclesfield Council has chosen to put an old man's life in jeopardy because of alleged wrong-doing by his daughters. And when Councillor Brendan Murphy spoke up for the man's rights, Councillor Jim Crocket, the "cabinet" member responsible for the policy, said in a bid to appease his staff: "Our employees come first!"
A SUMMARY OF EVENTS
George, a 90-year-old disabled Macclesfield man, was paying for a council emergency service, which covered falls and accidents in his home. Then the council withdrew the service without notice when his daughters dared to complain about its quality.
The council refused to restore the emergency lifeline while they investigated allegations of assault on a care worker by his daughters -- charges which the police had already dismissed as unfounded.
Hidden in the background, the council is skirmishing with its social services staff and their union, who are trying to pretend that Macclesfield is another "Dodge City" of the North-West, like Moss Side, and that the staff take their lives into their hands when they leave their offices.
The staff want to go out on calls in pairs instead of singly. The council doesn't want to see costs for the emergency service double as this will lead to awkward questions from councillors and rate payers. And it will be used as a foundation for further demands from the union.
So in the meantime, poor old 90-year-old George has been left at risk by his uncaring council since May 9th, 2002.
Ain't life grand?
George, our 90-year-old disabled Macclesfield man, was paying £35/month out of his pension to subscribe to Macclesfield Council's emergency alarm service. If the subscriber has an accident or collapses, the system is supposed to send an alarm to a Council call centre, which directs a care worker to the subscriber's home. George's family chose this full service because his nearest relatives - his two daughters - both have jobs which take them away from home.
One day, George's daughters received phone calls from the call centre asking them to go to their father's aid. Alarmed and distressed, and wondering why a care worker had not been sent, they rushed to their father's home -- only to find that there was nothing wrong with George but he was unable to work the alarm. His daughters then waited nearly half an hour for a "care" worker to arrive.
In due course, an extremely casually dressed, gum-chewing woman arrived. She was not wearing a uniform, she had no ID tag and she was clearly not pleased to be there. She checked the system and said that it was not working because George had left his phone extension off the hook.
The daughters became annoyed by the woman's attitude and sharp words were exchanged. Unhappy with the "care" worker's hostile attitude - and at her failure to make sure that George was okay - his daughters asked the "care" worker to leave. What happened next is in dispute.
The "care" worker claims that she was manhandled -- "grabbed around the throat". She went to the police, complaining that she had been assaulted. The police found no evidence of an assault and suggested that she went to her doctor. The police took no action against George's daughters.
The next day, two town hall officials arrived at George's home, accused him of letting his daughters attack a town hall employee, read him his rights and removed the alarm system. Worse, the council refused to restore the emergency service while they investigated allegations of assault which the police had already dismissed as unfounded.
When Tytherington Councillor Brendan Murphy pointed out that George had done nothing wrong and it was therefore wrong to punished him for the alleged misdeeds of someone else, he was told by the council's Chief Executive that his point was irrelevant. The Council had to put its employees first.
Councillor Murphy pointed out that, at this stage, there was only a verbal allegation of assault -- an official complaint in writing had not been filed -- and until the matter had been investigated, no action should be taken against George.
But, said the Director, if the council restored the service, our employees would walk out on strike.
In response, Councillor Murphy said: "I do not believe our staff would be so heartless and reckless as to do that just because of one unproven allegation -- particularly when the victim of the town hall's cavalier treatment is innocent of all the alleged crimes. This has to be the tip of an iceberg. The Council's officials are trying to hide something. There must be an on-going problem which has caused staff discontent and the Town hall is using George as a scapegoat."
A probe behind the scenes has revealed that the Council's "care" workers want to go out on calls in pairs as an alleged safety issue because Macclesfield, they claim, is a desperately dangerous place. Cynics on the council, and elsewhere, can see this as way for unscrupulous pairs of staff to take turn-about on calls, attend them singly and get paid the full amount for working part-time. "You do this call, I'll do the next one" style of thing.
Councillor Murphy is also furious at allegations made against one of George's daughter by the Director. "He accused the daughter of making abusive phone calls," Councillor Murphy said. "That alarmed me and so I asked for a transcript. I was told that giving one to me was against the rules. When I pressed the point, I was told that a transcript would be of no help as it was the tone of voice that mattered.
"I then insisted on hearing the tapes of the calls. At first, the Director resisted. But when, at last, I had heard the tapes, the Director had to admit that there was nothing abusive in them. Far from being abusive, George's daughter was deferential and apologetic. At the other end of the line, she was politely but clearly hectored by the council staff member, who was not listening to what she had to say, and who was talking over her attempts to speak, repeating over and over an irrelevant official mantra."
Eventually, Macclesfield council was shamed into restoring an emergency service of sorts to George's home but it was the lowest ranked of three levels. In the event of a problem, someone phones one of his daughters and asks her to go to his home. Which is rather useless if George's daughters are away on business and not what he needs.
As is usual with matters of this sort, where the original problem has been overshadowed by a totally unrelated dispute between the council and its employees, poor old George has been sentenced and convicted without a trial, the good name of one of his daughter is being blackened by council officials showing all the energy of one of Tony Blair's spin doctors and George has been without his emergency cover since May 9th, 2002.
Councillor Murphy has asked to see the "care" worker's official complaint about the alleged assault on her. None has been filed.
Councillor Murphy has asked to see photographs of her "injuries". While the "care" worker claimed that she had been grabbed around the throat, Councillor Murphy has been shown only pictures of a bruised elbow. There are people around who can't tell their arse from their elbow but someone who can't tell her throat from her elbow? Something doesn't add up here. Cynics out in the real world can see the Compensation Culture at work.
During the course of his "investigation" of the above, the council's ferret demanded that George's daughters submit to interrogation in separate rooms so that they could not confer. George's daughters both refused to become involved in what was clearly an attempt to intimidate them. The ferret's main aim seemed to be to find out if George's daughters had raised their voices when speaking to council staff -- this seems to be the major crime against humanity in Macclesfield, not a basic human right in the face of unsatisfactory service.