Another blow to ERC as Bonnyton developers pull out

Bonnyton House Care Home deal collapses.
Bonnyton House Care Home deal collapses.

Despite their best efforts to divest themselves of Bonnyton House Care Home, East Ren Council have been dealt yet another fatal blow in what is fast becoming the local authority’s worst debacle.

The Extra revealed two weeks ago that the council’s preferred bidders, a Mrs Poddar and a Mr Gupta had succesfully bid £340,000 to take over the care home. This, in the face of protests, petitions and calls for it to remain open, along with accusations being levelled against the council that they had failed to listen to suggestions on how the business could be saved from the axe.

However, our investigations revealed, that, in contradiction to the councils previous statement that Mrs Poddar had “shown a track record of providing quality care”, that at least one of her care homes had been embroiled in a sex abuse scandal which saw a member of staff jailed, and another care home being censured by the Care Commission for the sub-standard levels of care it provided.

East Ren Council said: East Renfrewshire Council has today reaffirmed its commitment to sell Bonnyton House to secure its long term future as a care home after the preferred bidders withdrew from the purchase. The preferred bidders have not yet advised of the reason for their withdrawal from the process.

“In 2015 the East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s Integration Joint Board approved that Bonnyton House care home should be sold as a going concern.

“The approval of the Council was also required as it owns the building and site.

“When approval was given to proceed with the sale of Bonnyton, the Council gave permission that, in the event of the sale not being successfully concluded with the preferred bidders, negotiations could be undertaken with other bidders. The preferred bidders were not the only formal bidders for the facility and East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (ERHSCP) will now immediately begin the process of revisiting other bids.”

Jim Fletcher, East Renfrewshire Council’s Leader, said: “I am extremely disappointed that the preferred bidders due to purchase Bonnyton have withdrawn. Whilst we have not yet been advised of the reasons why, I am aware of inaccurate comments made about the bidders during this process.”

Julie Murray, ERHSCP Chief Officer, said: “In preparation for the sale my officers carried out a very thorough and robust due diligence process. The preferred bidders had a compelling vision for the future of Bonnyton House and were prepared to invest heavily in the building. It is therefore very sad that they have withdrawn from its purchase.”

One of the council’s main protagonists has been Conservative councillor Jim Swift, who told The Extra: “I can say with some confidence that the Council will not get this sale through before the elections in May. I can also say that a Conservative led administration would keep it in council hands and deliver the savings in the joint plan that the Conservatives agreed with both staff and residents.”

Kirsten Oswald, Member of Parliament for East Renfrewshire slammed both the council and its leader saying: “Those on all sides of this issue will be concerned at further uncertainty over the future of Bonnyton House. The Council must set a time limit for discussions with other bidders, and a date by which they will decide on a way forward. Staff and residents deserve better than endless uncertainty.

“I am disappointed Councillor Fletcher chose to use comments by anti-sale campaigners as a diversion from the collapse of the deal. His admission that he does not know why the bidders’ have withdrawn calls into question the Council’s decision to highlight this issue in its announcement.

“If management of the home is such a challenge to the Council, it is possible the preferred bidder also had difficulty in making their business plan stack up and this may also have been a factor.

“This is a time for the Council to focus on the needs of residents and staff and the implications of this announcement are too serious for us to be diverted on to who else we can blame for the further uncertainty they now face.”

Julie Murray added: “We fully appreciate that this has been a difficult process for all those involved and we will do all that we can to bring this to a conclusion as fast as we can. In the meantime we will keep everyone involved fully informed every step of the way.”