COUNCILLORS claim they have been “bypassed” over plans for a new £9m health complex in South Tyneside.
A Labour member believes borough councillors should have been consulted before a contract was awarded for an Integrated Care Services Hub, to be built by South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust in the grounds of the borough’s District Hospital.
The complaint comes as opposition grows to plans to close council-run Connolly House, a specialist dementia centre, in Reynolds Avenue, Whiteleas, South Shields.
Jeff Finnon, a member of the Friends of Connolly House, this week claimed the home had been deliberately “run down,” to make way for the new health hub at the hospital. Supporters of the 30-bed home say emergency admissions and respite care have been steadily removed in recent years.
Even though the law dictates that only the council cabinet can award contracts, a Labour council member has fuelled the dementia centre row, by suggesting members should have been more heavily involved in the procurement process for the new £9m health hub.
The Labour councillor, who didn’t wish to be named, said: “Full council was bypassed. The 54 elected members weren’t given a say.”
Opposition UKIP member Coun Linda Hemmer, for Fellgate and Hedworth agreed, believes such major contracts should be more “democratic”.
She said: “Too many major contracts like this are being awarded without proper consultation among members.
“There should be far more consultation, outside the cabinet, because these decisions affect so many people in the community.
“I do side with the residents and the people who are affected by the closure of Connolly House.
“Not everyone wants centralised services like this health hub, which are often a matter of concern.
“Big health centres are not always what is wanted, and I think the council should listen and consult more on major schemes like this.
“And this is not just me saying this – I hear this all the time from people in the street.”
Now that the council cabinet has awarded the contract for the new health hub, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust will undertake further consultation before submitting a planning application.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “The award of contracts is reserved by law to the cabinet.
“Council cannot award contracts.”