Mark Steel: Do OAPs need a £14m bonus as well as pudding?

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The Independent Online

Almost everyone connected to the elderly or care homes has insisted the Government addresses the issue of the lack of care homes. So the Government has agreed to look into it. One possible cause it might find, if it investigates thoroughly and consults enough people, analysing everything with great care, is that it has cut the number of care homes. Obviously, the Government couldn't know in advance that reducing the number of something might result in there being fewer of them. But as it is now setting up a group to look into this matter, I suggest that the person put in charge is Tina Taylor from Bolton.

Because in Bolton, the council cut its budget for services by £40m and decided that its last two care homes should be closed. This was part of the cuts that apparently have to take place, so it's only fair that the people who should make the biggest sacrifices are 85-year-olds in care homes. Because we all know it was them that caused this mess. For years, when the staff asked them: "What would you like for dinner, dear?", they'd say: "Shepherd's pie, banana and custard, and a £14m bonus, please, love", with not a thought for how this might bankrupt the eurozone.

Bolton Council said it was looking at whether the private homes were more "efficient". Maybe by "efficient" it meant every day, on the button, with residents left face down in a bowl of soup for nine hours, not like some of these inefficient places where some days it happens and other days it doesn't and they're left all confused.

The problem for Bolton Council was that Tina Taylor's husband, Ken, suffering from Alzheimer's, was in one of the threatened homes and she was determined he wouldn't have to go through the distress of being moved.

So she collected thousands of signatures on a petition, organised public meetings and demonstrations, won the backing of the unions, put her case in the press so eloquently and frequently that she became a local celebrity and made such a magnificent fuss that the council backed down and said it would keep at least one home open.

Tina Taylor seemed to prove that the way to preserve services is for so many people to oppose them being cut that the council decides it is less hassle to keep them open.

And if we don't resist cuts to care for Alzheimer's patients, it won't be long before the Government announces that not only should they have to pay for their treatment, but they should pay twice, as they'll have forgotten they paid the first time, and such measures are essential, given the scale of the deficit.