Audit report said York care home plan was “flawed”

An independent audit report said that Labour run York Council’s plans for multi-million pound super care homes were “flawed” and promised savings had been “double counted”. Audit Report

Labour’s Elderly Persons’ Homes (EPH) programme promises to replace existing care facilities in York and build new homes on the former Lowfield and Burnholme school sites.

However, the project has been beset with problems and is currently running years behind schedule.

Now the publication of a report by external auditors Mazars, from July last year, has for the first time revealed their criticism of the project.

The report was revealed last night to the council’s cross-party Audit and Governance Committee.

Mazars critical audit report July 2103

Mazars latest report

 600,000 of planned savings from EPHs were not delivered because of issues around building new units and assumptions were flawed.

The original estimated savings were too ambitious and members made changes to the project.

There was no effective challenge of the external expert’s assumptions.

In addition savings were double counted”.


Lowfields – Labour remain tight lipped on future of school site

The responsible Council member refused to say at the last Council meeting when (or even if) work on the older persons care village at Lowfields would start.

Lowfields school entrance Oct 2010 She quoted the same spurious excuse, previously given by officers in response to media enquiries, “a competitive dialogue process” with prospective developers was taking place.

Local residents aren’t particularly interested in the details of the tendering process.

But they do want to know why the scheme is running 3 years behind schedule and they do expect the Council to have some idea when a planning application might be submitted.

The only information forthcoming was a statement that the whole of the Lowfields site is “13.71 acres of which the proposed care home and care village will cover 6.95 acres.  The remaining 6.76 acres is not part of the proposed scheme and there are currently no plans for that part of the land”.

So it seems that Labour are not prepared to confirm that the playing field part of the site is free from the threat of development.

£3.9 million Social Care budget problem forces major rethink in York

“the service was not responding quickly enough or effectively enough to the challenges it faced” – Auditors

The Council has now published an outline of how it intends to recover from the Social Care budget deficit discovered by Auditors.

The Auditors identified a budget pressure of £2.5 on this year’s budget together with outstanding actions needed to secure budgeted savings of £1.4 million.

Social care

In a separate report the Auditors they say

“Our view is that financial management and commissioning in the adult social care service needs to improve and this service has not responded quickly and effectively enough to the challenges that it faces.

 If the underlying financial pressures are not robustly addressed and actions to secure significant future base budget reductions are not effective, there is a risk that the Council will not be in a position to deliver the best possible value for money in adult social care services.

Of critical importance to the delivery of sustained improvement is a review of existing contracts and a new commissioning approach that secures the required services at an affordable price”.

The crisis had led to the demotion of the Cabinet member, who had responsibility for the department, earlier in the year with several senior staff following her out of the door last month.

A summary of the action that the Council intends to take can be read here

10 substantial issues, raised by the Auditors, are addressed. They include:

  • Producing a clear and unambiguous budget for the current year which eliminates overspends
  • Improved accountability for senior officials
  • More delegation of responsibility
  • Improvements in the budget build process for next and subsequent years
  • A clear savings plan
  • Improved management information systems and IT
Council Leader with Cllr Simpson Laing (right) a few weeks before she was sacked from her Social care post

Council Leader with Cllr Simpson Laing (right) a few weeks before she was sacked from her Social care post

Challenged on the problems at the last Council meeting, the Leader declined to say why he had not taken action last year to address the emerging issues.

Council officials had earlier declined to say why one of the savings projects – the opening of a new “super care village” at Lowfields – was running 3 years behind schedule.

Explore York Libraries and Archives presents “Caring for Carers”

On Wednesday 30 July, in the foyer at West Offices, a free exhibition of local care services will be held for carers.

Explore York Libraries and Archives are currently working with local carers to discover the benefits of using computers and being online, and this Caring for Carers event, presented by Explore York will give customers the opportunity to discover the wealth of support available to unpaid care-givers in the city of York.


Call for answers over Lowfield Care Village

Lowfields school entrance Oct 2010
Liberal Democrats are demanding answers over plans for a new care village at Lowfields in Acomb amid concerns about delays and a lack of communication with local residents.

In 2012 Labour’s £13million Elderly Persons’ Homes (EPH) Modernisation Programme promised to replace existing care facilities in York with 200 specialist residential beds at Fordlands, Lowfield Care Village and Haxby Hall.

Since then the programme has been hit with budget and timetable problems as the Haxby proposals were dropped and the Fordlands plans moved to the Burnholme School site.

The Labour Cabinet Member responsible, Cllr Tracey Simpson-Laing, lost responsibility for the project in a reshuffle earlier this year.

Lowfield Care Village, in Acomb on the former Lowfield School site, was due to open in April 2014.

It is scheduled to provide a 90-bed care home alongside independent living bungalows. However, local residents say they have heard little from the council about the delays and no updated timetable has been given. There are also concerns that the council will try to develop the former school playing field – the original intention had been to restrict building to the school ”footprint”.

Cllr Lynn Jeffries, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Adult Social Care and Councillor for Westfield who will question Labour about the delays at this week’s Full Council, commented:

York Social Services – auditors critical comments published

Following yesterdays revelations, that senior officials have left York Social Services Department, an Auditors report has provided further information on the background to the developing crisis.

Auditors Mazars, in a report to the Councils Audit and Governance committee next week, include the following paragraph

Risks in relation to Adult Social Care services
Description of the risksAdult social care is identified as one of the highest priorities within the Council’s service transformation programme. During the audit, we have become concerned at the lack of progress in making improvements to budget management and other aspects of adult social care services.

The development of the Better Care Fund provides a major challenge but also a significant opportunity for the Council and CCG to work together to increase investment in much needed intermediate and preventative care.

We are concerned that the lack of progress in delivering service improvement, together with the challenges of the Better Care Fund and the new Care Act, mean that the Council is at risk of failing to deliver good value for money in adult social care services and the best outcomes for local people.

They go on to say “We are working closely with officers to understand the barriers to progress and how they can best be addressed. The Chief Executive has recognised that insufficient progress has been made and has instituted an accelerated recovery and improvement process, working closely with the Director of Health and Wellbeing. We continue to review the Council’s arrangements to secure VFM in its use of resources. This has included reviewing the Council’s key plans and the delivery of those plans, and its financial arrangements, as well as considering the data in VFM profiles”.

scandal-23879094 Social care costs account  for the major part of Council budget expenditure.

If good value for money is not being achieved – and it appears that it isn’t with an overspend last year and a similar situation developing this year – then the whole Council budget is in jeopardy.

That could have a knock on effect on the quality of a wide range of public services provided in the City and on the level of Council Tax which will be levied in future years.

No doubt the Audit Committee will be requiring the attendance of the Cabinet members (Simpson Laing & Cunningham Cross), who have presided over this crisis, to attend their meeting and account for their actions.

Council tax leaflet

In its Tax demand – sent ot all households in the City in March – the Council said

The city’s demand for adult social care services is increasing at such a rate that by 2019/20 adult care costs are expected to account for 50 per cent of the council’s net budget. The council is investing a further £2.5m for adult care services in 2014/15, to ensure York’s most vulnerable residents are taken care of.

In 2014/15 the council will pay for approximately half the adult care cost increases through an increase in Council Tax, of 1.9 per cent, an average of 37 pence  per household, per week”.

 A full and frank explanation is now required from the Council Leadership

NB. The Council is being criticised in todays media for paying an interim Director £700 a day.

The Council has yet to reveal the costs of the two temporary appointments that it has made to cover the staff who have left the Social Services Department (or the costs of any severance package agreed for those leaving)

Questions being raised about Social Care management in York


Following the sacking of the responsible Cabinet member (Cllr Simpson Laing) a few weeks ago we understand other changes are afoot in the York Councils Health and Social Care Department.

The Department has been struggling to manage its budget during the last 3 years and now we understand that two senior managers are leaving the Authority.

No doubt the Councils auditors will be taking an interest in the behind the scenes activities but it is a shame that the Councils “scrutiny” process has proved to be so ineffective.

It is there that problems of this sort should be nipped in the bud.

Hopefully the more vulnerable of York’s residents will not be the real victims of this emerging scandal.

Free computer and internet support for care givers in York


Explore York Libraries and Archives, in partnership with York Carers’ Forum and the Tinder Foundation, are offering free support to local paid and unpaid carers on how to use computers and get online.

Explore Digital Care is a free, six-part course which will help care-givers in York understand the basics of using digital technology which will give them access to online support and resources themselves and so help those they care for.

York Carers Week Starts

York is celebrating the work of carers next week as part of national Carers Week (9-15 June).


Carers Week is a UK-wide annual awareness campaign, which aims to improve the lives of carers and the people they care for and in York it’s a chance for unpaid carers to take a break and join in one of the many activities on offer.

On Monday 9 June at CVS (Priory Street) from 10am to 3pm carers can have a free health check, visit information stalls and hear short talks.  There will also be some live music, a free lunch and complimentary therapies.Please call York Carers Centre on 01904 715490 to book a place.

On Wednesday 11 June York Carers Centre have a stall in the reception area of York Hospital and a bus in Parliament Street where carers can call in. York Carers Forum are also holding a Carers Service at 1.20pm in York Minster, all welcome. At 5.30pm at City of York Council West Offices there is an information sharing meeting for carers who look after an adult on the autistic spectrum.

On Friday 13 June young carers are launching their new play at York St John University.

Carers will also be able to brush up their web skills thanks to a free six-part course offered by Explore York Libraries and Archives and the Tinder Foundation, in partnership with York Carers Forum.

Running from May to September, Explore Digital Care is a free six-part course for local carers.  Each carer who enrols on the course will be invited to attend six free lessons in using different aspects of the internet, including staying safe online, using email, searching the internet and using various carers resources and forums online, amongst other things.