Coun Martin Hill

Council ‘bullied’ into paying back

The leader of Lincolnshire County Council says an ombudsman has ‘bullied’ the authority into paying back people it overcharged for care.

In July a report from the Ombudsman found the local authority was not adhering to the Care Act 2014 and people had suffered financially as a result.

The monitor of local authority practices had been looking at another financial matter, the county council’s Executive was told last week, when he found the authority was charging a flat-fee system of payment for short-term residential care, without a financial assessment of those concerned, contrary to the act.

The council has now brought in such assessments.

The meeting was told that 1,500 people would be offered refunds which was estimated to cost the authority £364,000.

So far 444 had been told they’ve overpaid of which 199 had responded to claim £66,500, the meeting heard.

The meeting was told that the council wouldn’t be offering refunds to the families they couldn’t contact if, for example, they had died or moved away.

The leader of the county council Martin Hill said: “The Ombudsmen is not saying it’s illegal. He’s saying it’s a difference of interpretation of the act.

“I think there’s a case we took a reasonable view at the time, the Ombudsman took his view to which we have bowed to his wishes.

“But there’s a point of principle here; we’re elected to make decisions not the Ombudsmen.

“If the Ombudsman wants to set policy perhaps he should stand for election and do it that way instead of using his powers in this case to effectively bully a council into what he thinks it should be doing.

“Is the Ombudsman going to start running social services? Perhaps the Ombudsman’s office could try and balance books.

“I can’t say I’m entirely happy with this report but I think it’s probably the right thing to do, to accept this and the policy changes and compensate those people who have been overcharged according to the change of policy.”

Lincolnshire County Council’s executive for place Glen Garrod said that, based on the current rates, some people may have been under-charged, but the authority had made the decision not to chase any payments.

“There’s arguably as many winners as losers by setting a flat rate,” he said.

“If we’d have gone back and charged people who had been undercharged, there would be a similar number of people who had been over charged.”

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