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Executive Cabinet

Minutes of the Meeting held on 22 October 2014

Time Commenced: 2.00pm Time Terminated: 2.45pm

Coat of ArmsPresent:

Councillor K. Quinn (In the Chair)
Councillors: J. Fitzpatrick, Gwynne, Piddington, Taylor, Travis and Warrington.

Apologies for Absence:

Councillors Cooney, Kitchen, Robinson and M. Smith.


20. Declarations Of Interest

Members Subject Matter Type of Interest Nature of Interest
Councillor Taylor Item 11 – Active Tameside Business Case Prejudicial
Chair of Tameside Sports Trust

Councillor Taylor left the room during consideration of this item and took no part in the voting/decision thereof.

21. Minutes

a) Executive Cabinet

Consideration was given to the minutes of the meeting of Executive Cabinet held on 27 August 2014.

Resolved:

That the Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Cabinet held on 27 August 2014 be taken as read and signed by the Chair as a correct record.

b) Strategic Planning and Capital Monitoring Panel

Consideration was given to the minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Planning and Capital Monitoring Panel held on 8 September 2014.

Resolved:

(1) That the Minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Planning and Capital Monitoring Panel held on 8 September 2014 be received and approved, subject to the following:-

Tameside Sports Trust – Active Play Zone Proposal – agreement being given to the request of Tameside Active to the proposed change of the location of the new active playzone from the initial location of the Longdendale Recreation Centre to the Medlock Sports Centre as being more commercially viable, subject to further consultation and discussion with local Ward members taking place.

(2) That the following recommendations be approved:-

Education Capital Investment

  1. That the recent announcements in respect of the opportunity to bid for a second round of Priority School Building Programme Funding be noted;
  2. That the allocation of £5,166,953 to invest in school buildings as detailed in the report be approved.

    Asset Management Update

  3. That the allocation of £167,960 to undertake works detailed in the report for various building fabric repairs be approved;
  4. That the disposal of assets detailed in the report be approved;
  5. That the allocation of £170,000 be approved to undertake surveys and prepare outline planning applications for the former Mossley Hollins, Samuel Laycock and Hartshead school sites and a review of playing field provision in the Borough to assist the disposal of surplus assets.

    Procurement of Multihog Vehicle
  6. That, subject to compliance with the Council’s Procurement Standing Orders, authorisation be given to use winter maintenance reserves (£50,000) to supplement the £100,000 approved on 17 March 2014 from the insurance fund reserves for the purchase of a Multihog MXCLP vehicle.

    Tameside Data Centre Relocation
  7. That subject to any necessary compliance with Procurement Standing Orders, the Assistant Executive Director (ICT, Media, Marketing and Communications) be authorised to undertake a two stage process for migrating all the existing computer systems from their current location, via an interim data centre based at Rochdale MBC’s data centre commencing immediately, subject to any legal agreement being approved by the Borough Solicitor and the estimated cost of £170K to be met from the Working Differently Capital Programme budget of £242K.

c) Association of Greater Manchester Authorities/Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Consideration was given to a report of the Executive Leader and Chief Executive which informed Members of the issues considered at the AGMA Executive Board meetings and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority held on 29 August 2014 and 26 September 2014.

Resolved

That the report be noted.

d) Forward Plan of Strategic Decisions for the GMCA and AGMA Executive

Consideration was given to the Forward Plan of Strategic Decisions for the GMCA and AGMA Executive held on 26 September 2014.

Resolved

That the Forward Plan of Strategic Decisions for the GMCA and AGMA Executive held on 26 September 2014 be noted.

22. Car Parking Charges: Review Of Options For Charging Regime

Consideration was given to a report of the Executive Member (Transport and Land Use)/Assistant Executive Director (Environmental Services) detailing the relationship between an affordable parking regime and economic activity, both for the trade and retail offer in town centres and the need for parking facilities throughout the rest of the Borough. The report balanced a variety of considered options for parking charges within the Borough, taking into account the recent closure of car park providers, whilst also recognising current income targets and projected outturns.

Reference was made to supporting economic growth and access to high quality, safe, secure and affordable car parking facilities, which played a significant role in supporting local economies. One element of the Council’s long-term strategy for car parks was to explore the disposal of identified car parks to support the greater economic good of the Borough. Therefore, the Council had taken the decision to close following car parks for the greater economic benefit:-

  1. Camp Street, Ashton-under-Lyne;
  2. Burlington Street, Ashton-under-Lyne;
  3. Cotton Street, Ashton-under-Lyne;
  4. Kynder Street, Denton; and
  5. Hyde multi-storey car park.

With regard to the financial projection, the current income target for car parking 2014/15 was £2,302,680 and the current projected outturn as at quarter two revenue monitoring was £1,987,167 resulting in an anticipated under-recovery of car parking income of £315,513.

In conclusion, it was reported that car parking within town centres and adjacent to popular facilities provided the public with access to shopping and other facilities and provided the foundation for economic activity. In the current climate, trends had identified that drivers were opting for cheaper alternatives and competition from other car park providers was starting to impact on the use of Council car parks.

Furthermore, it was stated that the Council needed to be able to react swiftly to respond to market forces and amend its charges appropriately and it was -

Resolved

(1) That the following charging regime be introduced on the Council’s Car Parks:

  • Up to half an hour parking £0.50 (unchanged)
  • Up to 3 hours parking £1.00
  • All day parking £2.00

(2) That the introduction of pay and display parking at Stamford Street, Ashton (2 sites) and Mill Street and the market ground, Mossley be approved subject to relevant planning approval and the introduction of appropriate traffic regulation orders.

(3) That any changes within the maximum tariff range for pay and display car park charges as described in Appendix 1 to the report (Current Car Park Tariffs by Zone) be taken via an Executive Decision and any increases to the maximum tariffs by a Key Decision, by the appropriate Executive Member.

23. Care Act (Part One) Implications On Charging Consultation

Consideration was given to a report of the First Deputy (Performance and Finance)/Executive Member (Adult Social Care and Wellbeing) and the Assistant Executive Director (Exchequer Services) which detailed the charging implications on service users receiving homecare or residential care. The report also explained that public opinion was required to inform the new charging structure and policies which would come into effect from 1 April 2015.

It was reported that Exchequer Services were responsible for conducting financial assessments for care and collecting care charges on behalf of Adults Services, as the care and support currently provided to service users was not a free service.

It was further reported that the proposed changes in draft regulations did not indicate that some very significant changes would form the final regulations due in October 2014 and the most important in respect of charging that were due to come into force from 1 April 2015 were as follows:-

  1. The local authority now had a power rather than a duty to charge for residential care so it may chose not to charge in circumstances where it was previously obliged to do so. However, the local authority was not permitted to pay towards the cost of residential accommodation for a person whose resources exceeded the capital limits.
  2. The local authority could, in appropriate circumstances, undertake a ‘light touch’ financial assessment rather than a full assessment.
  3. Deferred payment agreements must be offered to anyone who owned a property and met the qualifying criteria. They could also be offered to others who did not meet the criteria. By taking out a deferred payment agreement a person could “defer” or delay paying the cost of their care until a later date. The local authority would pay the deferred care charge and recover the monies when the property was sold or the person had died. By entering into a deferred payment agreement the service user was authorising the local authority to put a charge on their property to secure repayment of the debt accrued.
  4. Administration costs and interest could be charged on deferred payment agreements.
  5. A maximum limit could be set on the amount of payments that could be deferred under such an agreement by reference to the value of the property against which it was to be secured. The local authority could refuse to defer further payments once that limit was reached.

Furthermore, the Care Act 2014 provided a single legal framework for charging for care and support and whilst the Department of Health’s (DoH) policy intention was to make charging fairer and more clearly understood by everyone, the DoH had indicated a number of discretionary charging elements in the draft regulations and guidance. However, the discretionary elements had caused significant confusion amongst local authorities as it appeared to contradict the policy intention of the draft guidance and regulations of making the charging process fairer as it indicated there were no options for local discretion in relation to charging.

Particular reference was given to financial information, consultation and risks associated. In conclusion it was reported that Part One of the Care Act 2014 required local authorities to set out charges under a new legal framework and to have in place a policy for Charging Assessments and for Deferred Payments to support service users with paying for care from 1 April 2015. Final regulations were due to be implemented on 1 April 2015 and a Key Decision in February 2015 would seek approval to set charges and policies under the Act in readiness for 1 April 2015.

Resolved

To approve a consultation exercise with service users, carers and the general public after the final guidance and regulations of Part One of the Care Act 2014 are published as detailed in section 5 of the report.

24. Transforming Substance Misuse Services In Tameside

Consideration was given to a report of the Executive Member (Health and Neighbourhoods) and Director of Public Health detailing an overview of proposals to redesign Drug and Alcohol community-based treatment and recovery services in Tameside in a way which improved health outcomes; enhanced service quality, effectiveness and efficiency and reduced long term expenditure.

It was reported that over the previous twelve months, both an internal and independent external review of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services in Tameside had been undertaken. Both reviews had found that the current Drug and Alcohol Treatment provision was not commensurate with the local and national strategic context and did not adequately met the needs of local people and the local community.

It was further stated that there was an aspiration to undertake transformational change of the way Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services within Tameside were commissioned and delivered. At a Greater Manchester level, the endorsement of a city region Alcohol Strategy had also provided a context within which to undertake a wider strategic review of the Council’s local approach to tackling alcohol related harm.

Particular reference was given to the Council’s legal obligations, consultation and stakeholder engagement, options appraisal, financial implications, procurement, risks and equality impact and it was -

Resolved

(1) That approval be given to:

  1. decommission all current commissioned Drug and Alcohol Treatment services and commission a single prime provider to develop and deliver a whole system approach.
  2. undertake a procurement exercise using the open procedure to let a 10 year contract with safeguards as highlighted in 6.6.
  3. delegate to the Director of Public Health in consultation with the Executive Director (Governance) and Executive Director (Finance), authority to approve the evaluation criteria and the procurement documentation.

(2) That Cabinet affirm it’s aspiration for the anticipated budget for the services as detailed in paragraph 6.7 of the report but note that the annual budget each year will be subject to the Council’s annual budget setting process.

25. Tameside Support For Independent Living (Local Welfare Provision) – Proposal For 2015-16

Consideration was given to a report of the Executive Member (Health and Neighbourhoods) and the Assistant Executive Director (Community Services) which provided information in respect of the Financial Settlement for 2015/16, which did not include any funding for Local Welfare Provision with effect from 1 April 2015/16. It was explained that by a Consent Order sealed on 16 September 2014, the Government had agreed to reconsider its decision to cease funding for Local Welfare Provision.

It was reported that unless the Government confirmed that it would provide identified funding for the continuation of Local Welfare Provision, the Tameside scheme would cease on 31 March 2015. Members were reminded that Tameside had received £1,090,816 in 2013/14 and £1,074,928 in 2014/15 to administer and deliver a local scheme and the Council had agreed a local scheme on 14 February 2013, known as the Tameside Support for Independent Living Scheme (TSIL). Members were informed that the scheme was part of a wider support network that provided support for people in a crisis and for people that needed to support to live independently.

Details were given of how the scheme was delivered and its criteria, together with the level of demand for this support in Tameside. The Council’s experience of managing the local scheme since April 2013 indicated that demand for support remained high, despite the transition period at the start of the new scheme as the new arrangements were established and the local scheme was more limited in scope.

In conclusion there was a very real possibility that the Government would confirm its initial decision to withdraw specified funding for Local Welfare Provision. The Consent Order required the Government to make its decision in time for the provisional settlement in December 2014. Given the tight deadline that this would create for local decision making processes, the Council considered it prudent to set out its intentions at this stage, should the Government decide to proceed with its original decision to end the identified funding for Local Welfare Provision.

Resolved

That the following proposals be supported in principle:

  1. cease Tameside’s Local Welfare Provision on 31 March 2015 if the Government does not provide identified funding for this purpose;
  2. provide an enhanced homelessness prevention service;
  3. implement a consultation exercise to communicate the Council’s intentions in (1) and (2) above;
  4. progress a Key Decision to be taken in January 2015 following notification from Government, expected in December 2014 to confirm the Council’s position.

26. Museums And Galleries Service – Accreditation

Consideration was given to a report of the Executive Member (Health and Neighbourhoods) and Assistant Executive Director (Community Services) detailing the need for the Museums and Galleries Service to be formally accredited by the Arts Council England. The accreditation process involved the development of a Forward Plan for the service and the aim of the Forward Plan was to provide policy context for the work of Tameside Museums and Galleries for the period 2015-2020.

It was reported that the Council’s Museums and Galleries service had been subjected to a service review in 2012 and the service currently comprised:-

  • Portland Basin Museum;
  • The Museum of the Manchester Regiment;
  • Central Art Gallery;
  • Astley Cheetham Art Gallery; and
  • Heginbottom Mill.

It was reported that the core budget for the service had reduced from £745,080 in 2010-11 to £436,590 in 2013-14 and the outcomes/outputs of the service continued to be maintained and improved. The Museums Service had successfully obtained almost £130,000 of funding through 23 separate projects and the service planned to build on this and would continue to seek new funding to enable it to deliver exciting and innovative projects at all sites and in the local community.

In order to attract the necessary external funding to maintain and develop the Museums and Galleries offer, the service had to be formally accredited by the Arts Council England. The accreditation process was detailed in the report, which involved the development of a Forward Plan for the Tameside Museums and Galleries Service for the period 2015-2020.

Reference was made to the service aims and objectives and risks and in conclusion, it was reported that the service continued to improve its offer which contributed to Council priorities around wellbeing and quality of life. Service improvements had been developed and sustained in partnership with external funders such as Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Resolved

That the Forward Plan for the Tameside Museums and Galleries Service for 2015-2020 be adopted as detailed at Appendix 1 to the report.

27. Vision Tameside Phase 2

Consideration was given to a report of the Executive Leader and the Assistant Executive Director (Asset Management and Investment Partnership) detailing the progress of the programme to deliver the Vision Tameside Phase 2 Programme.

It was reported that a significant amount of work had been undertaken since March 2014 to review all aspects of the project and this included the need raised by the Council’s external auditors, Grant Thornton, to reconfirm the projected economic benefits of the proposed programme and to confirm that it demonstrated value for money at each stage. In addition, the impact of projected inflation, the scope and associated risks had also been reassessed.

It was further reported that there were a number of options that could be considered alongside the original scope, which offered the potential for the generation of further local economic benefits and which could add to the case for strengthening the footfall in the town centre which included:-

  • The provision of additional retail and office space to enable the increased co-location of services and partners in the new public service building or private sector tenants;
  • Residential development; and
  • Enhanced sustainability features, which would assist in achieving an “Excellent” rather than “Very Good” BREEAM rating.

Details were given of the schedule of potential decant locations, approximate costs of conversion and legacy condition related costs which were detailed in Appendix 1 to the report. Reference was also made to the strategic objectives, economic benefits, scope, financial implications, SFA grant funding, value for money and risks associated.

In conclusion, it was reported that the costs of the Vision Tameside 2 programme of works, including projected construction inflation and a 7% contingency on gross build costs, the additional scanning, public realm and cost of lease surrender in respect of the retail unit was now £45.14 million, which compared to an agreed budget of £36.9 million. The final contract sum would depend on the assessment of inflation and included contingencies which would be reviewed at Stage 1 and no further expenditure than that approved in March 2014 would be incurred on the project until Stage 1 had been approved.

Resolved

  1. That the scope of the proposed VTP2 building at 15,136m2 be approved;
  2. That the issue of a formal offer to Wilkinsons Stores, in respect of the temporary relocation within the town centre and to simultaneously enter into an Agreement for Lease of the proposed VTP2 building and the Surrender of the existing lease with Wilkinsons be approved;
  3. That heads of terms be agreed with the College, for their occupation of the new building;
  4. That the allocation of £1M included within the capital programme to undertake the necessary remodeling works and enter into lease agreements to secure the necessary space to allow staff to decant out of the TAC building be approved and approval be given to the making of a further Key Decision to undertake any necessary condition works, identified once full surveys have been undertaken. A sum of £460K for the relocation and remodeling of Hyde and Denton libraries to be approved;
  5. That the procurement of independent advice only through the TIP be approved, in accordance with the Strategic Partnering agreement to confirm that Value for Money is being delivered at Stage 0, Stage 1 and Stage 2, with costs being funded by the TIP; and
  6. That approval be given to progress the bid for £6 million SFA funding with Tameside College.

28. Targeted Basic Need Projects

Consideration was given to a report of the Executive Member – (Learning, Skills and Economic Growth) and the Assistant Executive Director (Asset Management and Investment Partnership) detailing the progress of the three Targeted Basic Need projects, including the establishment of new primary academy schools in Ashton and Hyde and the extension to Samuel Laycock School for pupils diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Condition.

Details were provided of the scope and construction cost and planning of the project bids and it was reported that the DfE had been clear through the delivery of the Targeted Basic Need programme that the successful funding bid was only intended to be a contribution towards the cost of the new places and not to cover the entire cost.

In conclusion, it was reported that the Targeted Basic Need grant had provided £8.3 million of additional capital funding in order to support the delivery of additional school places, however, an additional £7.076 million was required to complete the schemes which would need to be allocated from the general Basic Need allocation in 2015/16 and 2016/17. It would be necessary to undertake enabling works at all three sites, with values determined week commencing 13 October 2014 and with this investment the Council would be able to meet the demand for places projected to September 2015.

Resolved

  1. That approval be given to increase the capacity of the proposed Hyde Primary School to 420 places with a 26 FTE nursery;
  2. That approval be given to the allocation of Basic Need funding required after the external consultant had confirmed whether or not the schemes delivered value for money, the additional funding required was currently estimated to be £7.076 million;
  3. That the procurement of any early works necessary to sustain the delivery of the projects, once planning had been approved be agreed. The current estimate of the cost of these early works was £0.309 million for Hyde Primary and £1.964 million for Ashton Primary; and
  4. That the Borough Solicitor be authorised to sign a design and build contract for each of the schemes.

29. Active Tameside – Active Playzone Development And Fitness Equipment Lease

Consideration was given to a report of the First Deputy (Performance and Finance)/Executive Member (Neighbourhoods and Health) and Assistant Executive Director (Community Services) which detailed the proposal to develop Longdendale Recreation Centre into an Active Playzone which had been presented to Strategic Planning and Capital Monitoring Panel on 8 September 2014. It was explained that the Panel had supported the proposal to provide Active Tameside with £0.880m on a Prudential Borrowing approach, with a five year repayment term, subject to approval by Key Decision. Due to constraints posed by the Longdendale site, Active Tameside had developed an alternative proposal which improved the offer and business case for the development. It was proposed that the minutes of the Strategic Planning and Capital Monitoring Panel on 8 September 2014 be amended to reflect the change in location for the new Active Playzone and the need for additional capital to be paid back over a 10 year term on a Prudential Borrowing approach.

Furthermore, Active Tameside needed to replace the Cardio Vascular equipment at Copley, Ashton and Hyde Leisure Pool. The equipment replacement was an immediate priority for Active Tameside in order to maintain gym exercise participation and to deliver further growth. Active Tameside intended to purchase the equipment through a finance lease arrangement as they did not have the cash available. It was explained that the funders had formally approved the full leasing facility request, subject to a letter of comfort from the Council confirming that the Council would ensure that Active Tameside continued to have sufficient funds to meet all its obligations. The new equipment needed to be in place by the end of December 2014 in order to maximise the likely membership surge from 1 January 2015. In order to meet the imminent order deadline for the equipment an urgent decision was required to approve the arrangement, including the issuing of a letter of comfort from the Council.

Reference was made to the number of advantages that Medlock had over Longdendale for making it a far more viable option and improved opportunity for the Council, Active Tameside and Tameside residents. Capital investment had already been recommended for the Adventure Play Offer at Longdendale Recreation Centre based upon full recovery cost with a margin for income surplus. The business model remained the same as the original Longdendale proposal with the addition of High Ropes adventure, which would create an additional income stream. This increased the capital cost by £0.300m to account for the mezzanine floor and the addition of High Ropes in the main. However, as a consequence of increased income and reduced operating costs, the capital investment was recovered one year sooner at Medlock as opposed to Longdendale and the period of operation was longer, thereby the ability to generate income was significantly better over the period. In addition, the capital could be paid back over a 10 year term on a Prudential Borrowing approach, which significantly reduced the risk of generating full cost recovery, plus a margin for income surplus. The financial plan for the development at Medlock was provided at Appendix 1 to the report.

Details were given of the equipment lease for Active Tameside and equipment replacement was an immediate priority for Active Tameside as the income from gym activity was substantial. It was reported that Active Tameside intended to purchase the equipment through a finance lease arrangement with the cost of the equipment lease detailed. The funders had formally approved the full leasing facility request, subject to a letter of comfort from the Council confirming that the Council would ensure that Active Tameside continued to have sufficient funds to meet all its obligations.

Resolved

  1. That the Minutes from Strategic Planning and Capital Monitoring Panel on 8 September 2014 be noted and approved subject to agreement being given to the proposed change in the location of the new Active Playzone to the Medlock Leisure Centre.
  2. That the Council provide capital funding of £1.185m (excluding interest) to the Trust on a prudential borrowing approach and that the 2014/15 capital programme be revised to include the scheme as set out in this report.
  3. That authority be delegated to the Executive Director (Communities, Children, Adults and Health) in consultation with the Executive Director (Governance) and the Executive Director (Finance) to conclude the terms of the Funding Agreement to implement recommendation (2) above.
  4. That authority be given to the issuing of a letter of comfort (if required) in the form set out in paragraph 3.3 of the report or any other wording as approved by the Executive Director Governance.

30. Local Government Ombudsman (Lgo) Finding Of Maladministration Regarding Top Up Fees Charged By Residential Care Home

Consideration was given to a report of the Statutory Monitoring Officer which advised Members of the findings of the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) of fault causing injustice on the part of the Council and the action that must be taken by the Cabinet to receive the report and determine way forward.

The report of the Monitoring Officer, which had been distributed to the Executive Cabinet and had been publically available on the website for 5 clear working days. It explained the background to the complaint to the Ombudsman, which was a complaint that a resident (referred to as Mrs Y) should not have to pay a top-up fee in the care home she had been residing in since 2010. The report set out in detail the findings of the Ombudsman and the reasoning behind her decision. The LGO had made a series of findings of fault on the part of the Council and the report of the Monitoring Officer set out and explained the legislation that governed the actions the Council had to take in response to the LGOs report. The Acts were the Housing and Local Government Act 1989, which set out the Monitoring Officer’s responsibility to report and the Executive Cabinet’s corresponding duties and the Local Government Act 1972, which addressed the duty to advertise and other related matters.

The report also detailed the views of the Executive Director (Governance) as the Council’s Statutory Monitoring Officer and stated that there was no fault in law on the part of the Council and therefore no injustice in law.

It had been set out in the report of the Monitoring Officer that Executive Cabinet had to agree and prepare a report which specified the following:-

  • What action (if any) it proposed to take in response to the LGO’s report;
  • If it proposed to take any action in response to the LGO’s report, when it proposed to take that action; and
  • The reasons for taking the action specified in the LGO’s report, or, the reasons for taking no action.

Additionally, the Executive Cabinet should arrange for a copy of it to be sent to each Member of the Council and to the Executive Director (Governance). The law required the Council to provide the LGO with a response of how it proposed to address the report within 3 months of receipt, in this case by 24 December 2014, as the report had been received on and dated 24 September 2014.

It was further reported that the Statutory Officers of the Council, the Chief Executive and Executive Director (Finance) had been consulted and agreed with the views of the Executive Director (Governance). The Executive Director (Communities, Children, Adults and Health) had also been consulted and she also agreed with the views of the Executive Director (Governance) and was concerned with the inaccuracies which existed in the LGO’s final report, despite the Council pointing them out before the report had been made public by the LGO.

The Executive Cabinet also carefully considered the advice from Leading Counsel Kelvin Rutledge QC, of Gray’s Inn, London, dated the 22 October 2014 who has advised throughout the investigation by the Ombudsman, which was presented to the Panel.

The Executive Cabinet discussed the reports and advice at length before unanimously agreeing the position of the Cabinet as set out in Appendix A hereto and it was:-.

Resolved

  1. That the report of the Executive Cabinet attached marked Appendix A be the approved response of the Executive Cabinet to the LGO’s report of the 24 September 2014;
  2. That the Monitoring Officer be authorised to send a copy of the report of the Executive Cabinet together with all the reports and papers the Executive Cabinet has considered to each Member of the Council; and
  3. That following receipt of the above reports by Council on the 2 December 2014, the Monitoring Officer be authorised to inform the LGO of the Council’s response to the LGO’s report by the deadline of the 24 December 2014.

31. Urgent Items

The Chair reported that there were no urgent items for consideration at this meeting.

Chair


 

Appendix A

Report To:
Council Members & Statutory Monitoring Officer
Report Of:
Executive Cabinet
Date:
22 October 2014
Subject:
Response Of Executive Cabinet To The Local Government Ombudsman (Lgo) Finding Of Fault Regarding Top Up Fees Charged By Residential Care Home
Decision:
The Executive Cabinet having carefully considered:
  1. the Report of the Local Government Ombudsman dated the 24 September 2014;
  2. the advice of the Statutory Monitoring Officer set out in the public report published in accordance with statutory rules of access, noting that the Chief Executive, the Section 151 Statutory Officer and the Executive Director of Adults, Children’s and Health were also in agreement with her views;
  3. and having further considered the independent advice of Leading Counsel, Kelvin Rutledge QC, of Gray’s Inn, London, dated the 22 October 2014 who has advised throughout the investigation by the Ombudsman;
has decided that it cannot accept the findings or recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsman as set out in her report.


This is because the Executive Cabinet is of the view and agrees that no fault or injustice can be established, and consequently there is no basis for the Council to act in accordance with the Local Government Ombudsman recommendations.


The Executive Cabinet acknowledges that this is a rare and exceptional situation knowing that as far as records exist Tameside Council has always agreed with the recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsman and implemented them.


The Executive Cabinet are proud of the Council’s strong record of delivering value for money services to high standards, which have been praised by our external and independent auditors and other inspections, including our Customer Service Excellence. However, we realise that there will always be occasions when residents are dissatisfied. This will become more likely given our significant reduction in budget from Government, which means we cannot always afford to do what we would like to. Where this happens, we always direct dissatisfied residents to the Local Government Ombudsman so they get the benefit of independent advice and investigation.


Whilst the Executive Cabinet acknowledges and respects the independent role of the Local Government Ombudsman, on this occasion the Executive Cabinet strongly disputes the findings of the report that has been issued. The Executive Cabinet categorically denies that it has not acted in accordance with the law. The report is fundamentally flawed in a number of respects, and there are concerns as to whether the Ombudsman has unlawfully exceeded her powers in issuing the report.


The Council reviewed its commissioning arrangements to ensure that only those homes that offered the highest standard of care get paid a quality premium rate. This was not about cost cutting. Tameside Council continues to pay one of the highest care and nursing fees across the Northwest of England to support the most vulnerable in our community. The purpose of this change, made in 2012, was to raise and maintain the quality of care in Tameside care homes whilst ensuring they remained financially sustainable. This was a priority for the Council following National scandals of poor and failing quality of care in homes such as Winterbourne, Bristol, and the terrible impact on many frail elderly residents as a consequence of the Southern Cross Homes going bust.


In particular, the report accuses the Council of excluding the home from the higher quality framework, despite meeting the set criteria. The home in question was excluded from the quality framework precisely because it did not meet the 70% quality criteria required by the Council, which was devised through a transparent and open process accepted by the Ombudsman in their report as fair.


Perversely, the effect of the Ombudsman’s decision is to financially reward poorer performing care homes, completely contrary to the Council’s aim to improve quality going forward for the benefit of its most vulnerable residents and ultimately taxpayers who fund the care.


The impact of any increase of fees by off-contract care homes will result in the Council having to reassess whether it is appropriate for residents to remain there. Such unintended consequences will not be a good outcome for the health and wellbeing of residents, or the financial stability of the Borough’s care homes. This is exactly what the Council was seeking to avoid by implementing a fair and reasonable higher quality framework.


Consequently, in light of the advice and in particular the independent advice of Leading Counsel, Kelvin Rutledge QC, of Gray’s Inn, London, the Executive Cabinet does not believe it is expedient or in the public interest to accept the recommendations of the Ombudsman in these circumstances.
Nevertheless, the Executive Cabinet notes that the Council has already embarked on a review of a small number of individual cases and understands that the intention is to ensure, for the avoidance of doubt, that those residents are clear about their options. The fourth recommendation of the Ombudsman report is therefore accepted in part and is already being undertaken as part of its review process.


Further that:

  1. the Monitoring Officer be authorised to send a copy of the report of the Executive Cabinet together with all the reports and papers the Executive Cabinet has considered to each Member of the Council; and
  2. following receipt of the above reports by Council on the 2 December 2014, the Monitoring Officer be authorised to inform the LGO of the Council’s response to the LGO’s report by the deadline of the 24 December 2014.

Cllr Kieran Quinn - Executive Leader signed as Chair on behalf of the Executive Cabinet

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