Dispute over funding to go all the way

PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 December 2010

golden years

golden years

© Paul Doyle 2010

THE battle lines have been drawn in a funding dispute between an alliance of nursing homes in Weston and North Somerset Council.

Both parties are set to face each other in a row over resident care fees at an arbitration hearing in April next year.

The group of 13 homes claim the £80 per resident a day awarded is not enough to cover 24-hour nursing care, accommodation and food.

Instead, they are calling for a 12 per cent rise in funding, but North Somerset Council has refused the increase, saying a 3.6 per cent increase offered is fair.

Both sides will risk being landed with a legal bill of at least £500,000 if they lose the independent panel hearing.

Spearheading the homes’ campaign is Lyndhurst Park Nursing Home owner Gordon Butcher, who claims one business has already been forced to close since the dispute began last year.

This month he wrote to North Somerset councillors, calling on them to urge officers to drop their ‘hard-line position’.

He said: “The amount the council pays us to look after patients eligible for their care does not cover the actual costs.

“There are simply no more efficiency savings that can be made without impacting on the quality of care.”

Mr Butcher said the homes were struggling to improve standards set by regulators at a time savings had to be made.

He also said the difficulty of recruiting staff had increased because of the low wages they were forced to offer.

If the band of businesses were to lose the hearing, Mr Butcher said he expected many more homes in the town to close.

North Somerset Council has warned a further increase in fees would lead to a reduction of services, many of which are already under threat because of Government cuts.

Final preparations for the arbitration hearing by both parties are well underway and formal cases have been submitted.

The hearing, headed by an independent mediator panel, settles disputes between parties.

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