Decision-makers should debate cost-cutting proposals for Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) face-to-face, an exasperated politician has insisted.

Councillor Iain McMillan, Labour group leader, reckons next month’s integration joint board – the body responsible for oversight of the HSCP – should be held in-person, instead of the current online-only format.

A decision is set to be made on a number of suggested savings, such as closing a care home and merging Mirin and Milldale day services for adults with learning disabilities – the latter sparking a recent protest at Renfrewshire House – at the meeting on March 22.

The Gazette: Protest over the merging of the Milldale Centre in Linwood and the Mirin Centre in PaisleyProtest over the merging of the Milldale Centre in Linwood and the Mirin Centre in Paisley (Image: Newsquest)

And Councillor McMillan, who represents Johnstone South and Elderslie, believes discussing the controversial measures, which have been drawn up to plug part of a projected £14.7 million gap in 2024/25, over Microsoft Teams represents an “obstacle to transparency”.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “With the long-term effect of any possible cuts that are agreed that day, people who are sitting round that table and making those decisions have to be accountable. They have to be seen.

“It shouldn’t only be for people who have access to the technology or a case of looking at it on a phone or a laptop.

“People should be able to see what’s happening in public. You can read the room better, you can see who’s saying what.

“For me, it’s just an absolute joke that this IJB is still being held over a computer.

“It’s an obstacle to transparency. It’s an awful lot easier to make a decision if you’re sitting in your kitchen.”

At the meeting in January, Councillor McMillan formally requested the March session be held in a face-to-face setting, however, he couldn’t muster the support to put it to a vote. He said he felt “badly let down” at the time, citing a discussion at a development session in December, at which, he claimed, the idea had agreement.

Instead, it is planned for the following board in June to take place in-person.

Meanwhile, members of the public can still access the March meeting via Microsoft Teams as normal.

Councillor Jennifer Adam, chair of the IJB and SNP representative for Paisley Northeast and Ralston, said: “Last year, IJB members agreed that meetings over 2023 and 2024 would continue to be held online via Microsoft Teams.

“We also agreed to formally reconsider the format of the meetings in March, with the agreed format starting from June 2024 onwards.

“Over the past few years, online meetings have been vital for us to continue discussing important issues – and they have enabled better attendance and more flexibility for members.

“The online format has also provided added benefits, such as opportunities for members of the public and HSCP staff to watch the meetings or recordings if they wish to do so.

“The matter was discussed again informally in December – and we agreed that once a suitable location to enable a hybrid approach for meetings could be secured, we would all be keen to revert to in-person meetings.

“Work is currently underway to identify an appropriate location to allow this to take place and it will be considered at our meeting in March 2024.”