A ROW has broken out between rival councillors over where the blame lies for high care costs and a large legal bill.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council last month lost a legal fight against care home providers after attempting to reduce care fees.

The authority lost in the High Court and must now pay £78,000 in legal costs.

That has led the main opposition Liberal Democrats to criticise the ruling Labour group for “wasting money.”

However, Labour has countered that it was the previous Lib Dem-led Coalition council which left the council with high care figures in the first place.

Glyn Nightingale, Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “Residential care providers were never going to agree to lower charges in the middle of a contract.

“This is another in a series of disasters where Labour routinely wastes residents’ council tax.

"Not content with spending £1.5m on a vertical pier that nobody wants, £37,600 on bird monitoring, and £125,000 doing up the town hall just before it was demolished, now Labour bosses are forcing local council taxpayers to stump up £78,000 for their poor judgement.”

Coun Sheelagh Clarke, Labour cabinet member for health and social well-being, said that the previous non-Labour administration had agreed the current care payment model in 2006, which had led to the council paying an average of £40 per resident per week - more than any other North-East authority.

She said that added up to £1.3m a year, a total of £7.8m.

“We have been attempting to re-negotiate these fees on behalf of our residents but the Independent Care Home Owners Association chose to take the matter to Judicial Review on five grounds," she said.

"It is significant that on only one of these grounds did the judge find for the claimants, and that was on a matter of process only. We will now correct the process issue and set the fees at an acceptable level for our residents.”

George Dunning, leader of the council, said: “Even nigh on six years since the coalition were thrown out of office we are still suffering from their legacy of avarice.

"Not only did they hike up their salaries between 383 per cent for cabinet members and a massive percentage hike of 557 per cent for the deputy mayor, they paid private care providers far in excess of neighbouring local councils.”

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