Local Authority’s Private Care Home Rates are Rational
Private care home owners have failed to convince the High Court that rates for their services paid by a local authority are irrationally low. The High Court ruled that, in setting the relevant fees, Northumberland County Council had properly had regard to government guidance and to the real costs of providing residential care.
In pursuance of its duty to provide residential accommodation to the elderly and disabled within its area under the National Assistance Act 1948, the county council had set a fee structure which private care home owners argued was insufficient to meet their mounting costs or to provide a satisfactory level of care.
However, the court rejected the care home owners’ plea that the fees fixed by the council were primarily driven by budgetary restraints and took insufficient account of the current and future costs of providing their services. Submissions that the council had imposed ‘efficiency savings’ without identifying where they might be achieved were also dismissed, along with claims that there had been inadequate consultation prior to the fee structure being imposed.
Arguments that the council’s ‘corporate ears were shut’ to attempts by care home owners to engage in the fees-setting process were ‘untenable’, as were submissions that, in refusing to make new placements with care home providers that declined to sign up to the new fees structure, the council had abused its dominant position in the market place, the court concluded.