Wirral cabinet votes for cuts in care home fees

AROUND 150 Wirral care home owners and staff lobbied a meeting of Wirral Council's ruling cabinet last night in protest at proposed cuts in their fees.

Adult social services director John Webb's decision not to pay the homes an annual rise coupled with a 1.3% reduction sparked an angry reaction.

The cabinet approved the reduction - but this decision has been "called in" by Conservative councillors, delaying its implementation pending a further study.

An earlier proposal floated in March aimed to cut fees by 5%.

The plan caused an outcry among home owners who warned it would lead to closures and result in many elderly people facing eviction.

In a report presented to cabinet, Mr Webb recommended that fees to care home owners should effectively be capped during 2009/10 at around 98.7% of the 2008/09 rate.

The cabinet voted to accept this recommendation, which members pointed out will mean around 4% more being paid to care owners than had been originally proposed.

However, owners who do not agree to the new contract will be given three months' notice then have their contracts terminated.

The Conservative group, which does not have a seat on the Lib/Dem and Labour-led cabinet, said they will now "call in" the decision.

This process allows another committee to study the impact the fee reduction will have on the homes and their elderly residents, some of whom will have to find alternative accommodation if contracts are terminated.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for Wirral Care Homes Association said it was considering mounting a legal challenge against the local authority.

He said: "It is our belief they have acted unlawfully on two counts; one concerns the delivery of care, the other contends that they have failed to offer written advice to the elderly.

"Many care homes in Wirral are worried about the possibility of closure and were relying on a cost of inflation rise based on the Retail Price Index for November/December last year, as per our contracts.

"Our view remains unchanged - that the reduction in fees is both unfair and dangerous."

The cut would save the council around 1.3m, some of which, says Mr Webb in his report, would be reinvested in alternative care provisions for the elderly.