Blame game following £1.8 social care overspend

SNP councillors are denying they are to blame for a £1.8 million overspend in Stirling Council’s social services budget.

The Labour/Tory administration say since coming to office they have “discovered significant issues” in the department, some down to unavoidable and unpredictable cost pressures in children’s services which would ordinarily be covered by reserves, but one was “failure of the previous administration’s policy of care at home”.

In recent years the council has been moving towards caring for more people at home rather than putting older people and adults with care needs into homes. The policy had all-party support.

However, the Tories and Labour say in the last year of the previous SNP administration the policy was “no longer being implemented” and “as the agenda moved towards council elections and construction of the care village, pressure was removed from the organisation and decisions taken not to release funding to help with the changes – leading directly to the overspends identified”.

Finance portfolio holder Neil Benny said: “We have been left a right old mess. In May, the SNP manifesto boasted they had fixed social care and left an organisation ‘in control of its budgets’. All the while they must have known about an identified overspend which was growing.

“There was a distinct lack of coherent political leadership in this area, the role shifting from portfolioholder Steven Paterson to then council leader Graham Houston who told us he took personal responsibility for the service. They failed on their agenda to ‘change the balance of care’. The SNP showed complete disregard for the most vulnerable in Stirling throughout their tenure – who can forget the fiasco over the closure of Wellgreen and Beech Gardens care homes? The SNP care only about independence. Now we have to pick up the pieces.”

Social care portfolio holder Margaret Brisley said: “Things are already starting to change. With new leadership we have put in place better controls to ensure this doesn’t happen again I will ensure vulnerable people do not suffer as a result. I call on all parties to take this seriously and work together on a way forward for social care.”

SNP group leader Graham Houston, however, said: “I totally repudiate the spurious claims made by the Tory-led Labour administration. When they took over running of the council the social care budget was an estimated £350,000 over budget due to two significant instances of children who needed to be taken into care. There was an agreed plan to manage this overspend and bring the budget back into balance. All other aspects of social care were under control and within budget.The current £1.8 million overspend may be a surprise to Councillors Benny and Brisley but their failure to understand and lack of attention to these important and costly services have allowed this to happen and no one else to blame.”