Council failings may lead to disabled subsidy cut

Posted on Monday 16th January 2012 at 3:36 pm by SH (Editor)

The Labour Party

A local government spending watchdog has warned South Gloucestershire Council that failures in the way it managed grant applications from disabled people could mean central government will cut its funding.

The Audit Commission has published a critical account of the way in which Conservative-run South Gloucestershire Council managed its process for awarding Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs). Councils are obliged by law to fund DFGs and they are awarded to residents on low incomes to help with the installation of aids such as walk-in-showers, stair-lifts and widening of doorways.

In its report, the Commission criticises the Council’s Community Care & Housing department for failing to ensure enough estimates of the cost of works were obtained prior to awarding grants. The Council is required by central government to see at least two estimates before a grant can be awarded. However, according to managers, it “became the norm” for only one estimate to be sought from applicants. The Council’s total spend on DFGs for 2010/11 was £2million of which £600,000 was paid to one company alone.

Cllr Pat Apps (Labour, Kings Chase) who chairs the Council committee which scrutinises the Community Care & Housing Department said she was shocked to hear about the Audit Commission’s findings. She said:

“At a time when council finances are being stretched due to government cuts, and we are being told that every penny has to count, I am shocked to hear that the Conservative administration has been awarding grants based on just one estimate.”

The council can be reimbursed by up to £700,000 per year from central government to help pay for DFGs, but this payment is conditional on the auditors confirming that the authority is abiding by its processes. According to the auditor’s report, the failures of the Community Care & Housing Department means there is “some doubt whether the Council will receive the full amount that it would otherwise receive”.

Cllr Apps added:

“If South Gloucestershire Council ends up not receiving its full entitlement from central government, the blame will lie firmly at the door of the Conservatives running the authority.  The council is already having to use money that it receives from the sale of former council houses to pay for DFGs, so if central government does not fund us in full, the Conservatives will have to find yet more savings.”

Related link: Annual Audit Letter 2010/2011 [PDF]

Source: Labour Councillors on South Gloucestershire Council


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