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A council-owned company could be set up to protect social care services in Crewe and Nantwich from further cuts, reports Stephen Topping.

Care4CE, Cheshire East Council’s provider of adult social care services, has been slashed in size over the past nine years from a workforce of 1,500 to fewer than 700 – while some services are no longer offered.

Pete Kelleher, service manager, told a CEC scrutiny committee that the service has a smaller budget than before and is continuing to face financial pressure each year.

He insisted that Care4CE had cut down as many managerial roles as it could – and put forward an arms-length company as one option to stop ‘salami slicing’ the service.

“We have got ongoing financial pressures which we are facing and year on year there have been a number of budgetary pressures which we have faced,” Mr Kelleher said.

“We’ve got to a point where any reductions that would be taking place would be difficult to manage without reducing the services that are being provided.

“So we decided that we needed to review the way the services were being provided to effectively put an end to the salami slicing which has taken place over the past few years and find a more solid platform going forward.”

The committee was told that Care4CE staff had been asked for ideas on how to transform the service, with 221 individuals completing a staff survey.

CEC and consultants C.Co considered a range of options for Care4CE including outsourcing from a private firm, handing the service to the community or updating the current system.

They found that the option to set up an alternative delivery service vehicle (ASDV) – similar to CEC’s arms-length waste management firm Ansa – would be the most viable option to continue all Care4CE services.

Cllr Sam Corcoran, leader of CEC’s Labour opposition, praised the ‘good ideas’ brought forward from staff and called for them to have a future role by setting up a ‘staff mutual’ ASDV – meaning it would be controlled by employees.

He added: “I can see the logic behind an ASDV because it could bid for direct payments work which it can’t at the moment.”

Cllr Janet Clowes, cabinet member for health and social care, acknowledged that the Care4CE restructure had taken a while – after it had been mooted in 2016 – but insisted it was important to “do this properly”.

“Some of those ideas coming from staff, coming from service users are also really exciting,” she said.

“We’ve got a good service, we’ve got good staff, but we’ve got the potential here to make it even better.”

But Cllr Stewart Gardiner, Conservative member for Knutsford, is keen to make sure those who receive care from the service have their voices heard in the restructure.

He added: “While carers do everything with all the best intentions, sometimes the voice of the customer isn’t heard loudly enough.”

Further consultation on Care4CE’s future is expected later this year, before the issue will come back to scrutiny committee in early 2019.

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