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Council freeze on care home payments ruled illegal

A High Court decision on council payments of elderly care fees could have huge implications across the country.

A judge ruled that Sefton council in Merseyside acted illegally when it froze payments to a residential care homes two years ago.

Most English councils will now have to review their budget decisions, though campaigners for older people welcomed the ruling, as private care home managers say the lower rates they are getting from councils don’t cover the cost of good quality services.

At the High Court in Manchester, Judge Philip Raynor said Sefton had not engaged in meaningful negotiation with care providers, which “inadequacy of central government funding” could not excuse.

Sarah Pickup, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “A lot of authorities have frozen fees this year, partly, of course, because their actual budgets have gone down. The ruling means an additional financial pressure on councils at a time when budgets are already under the cosh.”

A Sefton Council spokesman said: “The judgment does not say that we have made the wrong decision. It is merely critical of some elements of the process we went through.

“It shows that the speed at which we needed to make cuts last year has meant we did not consult with care home providers early enough about the possible freeze in their fees. We accept that.”

Dr Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said it was right that council care cutbacks had been declared illegal.

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