Council ‘wastes’ £2m on unbuilt care homes

The Highland Council has been criticised after spending over £2m on a scheme to build five new care homes – only for the project to be scrapped.

The authority had approved a £21.5m building programme in 2007. But the plans were overturned in June by the new Lib Dem led administration, after a total of £2,257,000 had been spent on preparation work.

The figures were revealed by Councillor John Finnie, the SNP group leader on the council.

His party backed the original proposals while part of the administration in 2007 and, after it was overturned in June, he requested details of the costs incurred.

More than £250,000 was spent on procurement, including legal advice, technical support and survey costs.

And almost £2m was spent on various building and planning fees, surveying, consultants’ costs, and the demolition of one home in Inverness.

The five new care homes were earmarked for Inverness, Fort William, Muir of Ord, Tain, and Grantown, and were to be run in collaboration with NHS Highland.

Mr Finnie said: “The public will rightly view the £2m costs incurred for nothing as obscene.

“Highlanders don’t like waste, don’t like double standards and won’t forget this betrayal of our older people.”

Independent Councillor Donald Cameron, who represents Fort William and Ardnamurchan, said the £600,000 spent on the scheme in his area would have gone a long way towards refurbishing the existing home, Invernevis House.

He added: “There will be widespread anger in Lochaber at this waste of resources with no end product.

“This latest revelation only compounds what the public will perceive to be bungling incompetence.”

Social Work Committee Chairwoman Margaret Davidson said: “There was a clear promise and intent to build the care homes but the world changed when Lehman Brothers crashed in 2008 and we had to reconsider everything that we are doing.

“The decision not to proceed was taken with great reluctance in the face of spending cuts and a business care review that stated any care home built would not constitute best value.”

Following its decision to reverse the original building programme, the local authority then agreed to seek expressions of interest from the private sector in building new care homes in Tain and Muir of Ord.

The cost of refurbishing homes in Inverness, Fort William and Grantown is currently being considered by officials.