Compromise reached on warden service

Campaigner Ted Smith.
Campaigner Ted Smith.

Sheltered housing residents in Angus have scored a victory in their fight to retain their warden service after Angus Council offered a compromise solution.

At the full council meeting today (Thursday), elected members unanimously accepted an amendment to a report on the county’s sheltered housing provision which proposed scrapping its Tenancy Support Officer, or warden, service.

The recommended alternative was to put in place a system relying on a social enterprise scheme with Voluntary Action Angus, similar to Care About Angus which now provides a home help service.

If approved, the move would have helped to save almost £800,000 while meeting legal requirements for the Scottish Government policy of self-directed support (SDS)

The amendment, put forward by council leader Iain Gaul, proposed the retention of a service either through a social enterprise, a sheltered housing resident fully-funded council scheme, or through an Arms Length Trading Organisation (ALTO).

It continued: “Officers are instructed to bring forward a working plan whereby the existing tenancy support officers are given the best possible opportunity for continuity of employment either with Angus Council, a social enterprise company or an ALTO.”

It added that members are to be consulted on all details and further reports will be presented to a relevant committee after consideration by a member officer group consisting of six councillors and chaired by council chief executive Richard Stiff.

Around 40 sheltered housing tenants from across Angus, supported by members of Unite the union, demonstrated outside Town and County Hall in Forfar and local campaigners addressed councillors to make an impassioned last-minute plea for the service to be retained.

Phyllis Jolly, from Letham, attacked the local authority for its apparent lack of public consultation and transparency on the issue.

She said: “There is no consensus of opinion so there is no mandate for you to take a decision on behalf of your constituents. Current tenants have been targeted for consultation, with some left feeling like victims and they have carried the responsibility to get the news out to society at large.

“You’re a public service, not a secret service so there’s no surprise people have been talking about a hidden agenda.”

After the meeting Montrose man Ted Smith, who has been at the forefront of the campaign, said he and other residents are relieved by the outcome.

He said: “It’s as good as we can get - as long as we can all get around the table. It’s a way forward, as long as the council remembers to get tenants involved.”