Care home owners ready to mount legal challenge as Wirral Council unveils changes to fee cut proposa

CARE home owners are launching a legal challenge against Wirral Council’s plans to cut fees. After a huge outcry, Social services boss John Webb last week backtracked over proposals to reduce the money paid to homes by 5% – equivalent to between £18 and £22.

His new recommendation is that fees should effectively be ‘capped’ during 2009/10 at around 98.7 % of the 2008/09 rate.

He says it would mean around 4% more being paid than had been originally proposed.

But owners say the plans would still mean a cut in fees that would leave them out of pocket and could force homes to close.

A spokesman for Wirral Care Homes Association said: “Our view remains unchanged – that the reduction in fees is both unfair and dangerous. Many care homes in Wirral are worried about the possibility of closure and were relying on an inflationary rise, as per our contracts”

Councillor Moira McLaughlin, cabinet member for adult social services, said: ‘The current situation cannot be allowed to continue as it is not an efficient use of tax-payers money. Some care homes are currently operating with as little as 70% bed occupancy which demonstrates an over provision of care home beds.

“Our existing contract requires us to pay an increase of 4.7% in 2009/10, at a time when inflation has reduced dramatically.This would only be afforded by cutting other much-needed services.”

In an open letter on the proposals, Myrtle Lacey, chief executive of Wirral Age Concern said: “Whilst it is regrettable that the reduction is necessary, given the budgetary constraints the council is facing, this would appear to be a reasonable compromise viewed in purely financial terms.

“Our overriding concern is that high quality, affordable care and support is available across the borough to respond to the needs and wishes of our older people.”

The council’s cabinet will consider the new proposals at a meeting at Wallasey Town Hall on Thursday, starting at 6.15pm.