A BID to rapidly improve the terms and conditions of hundreds of poorly-paid care workers across Worcestershire has been rejected.
The county council's Conservative group has thrown out a bid to adopt a union-led charter which aims to make sure people offering home care services get better wages, more training and work reasonable hours.
The Ethical Care charter, created by Unison, has been gaining momentum across the country over the last 18 months and is aimed at preventing outside agencies from exploiting their staff.
Most councils 'buy' homecare from outside bodies, who often work long hours on the minimum wage.
A motion was debated during a full council meeting, led by Green Party Councillor Matthew Jenkins, to encourage the county to sign up, but it was thrown out despite support from the Liberal Democrats and several Labour politicians.
Councils which adopt the charter often find it has significant costs, not least because it means workers must all be on the Living Wage of £7.65 an hour. County Hall's budgets need to be reduce by around £100 million by 2018.
During the debate Cllr Jenkins heavily criticised the homecare industry, calling it "a race to the bottom" and saying the way councils work closely with it creates a "false economy".
He said poor at-home care leads to more injuries, worsening health among the elderly population and further knock-on problems to the public purse.
Councillor Liz Tucker, Lib Dem group leader, said: "If we adopt this charter it will being transparency as to whether we are buying services that are actually good enough.
"I can see that one of the problems for the administration will be the cost, and the Living Wage issue, but I'd like to see what could be put into the pot to create a guaranteed level of service."
The Conservative group, which has an overall majority at County Hall, amended the motion so it said the council will "have regard to the social values in the charter" but be "mindful of the tight financial position".
Cllr Jenkins said the re-worded version did not compel the council to sign up to the better terms and conditions, lambasting it.
Councillor Sheila Blagg, Conservative cabinet member for adult social care, said: "We already comply with some of the standards you are talking about."
She the council was committed to "better quality care", adding: "But it is a finite envelope, and we can't ignore value."
Cllr Blagg also said she "does not support the idea" that better wages automatically leads to improved care.
After a vote, mass Tory support led to the amended motion being passed.