Health chiefs reject council budget offer to ‘send message’

Thursday April 13th 2023


Artist's impression of new Normandy Court extra care housing in Dalkeith.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Health chiefs have paused recruitment for a new extra care housing development due to open in Midlothian this summer in a row over council funding.

The move came after Midlothian Integration Joint Board (IJB), which oversees health and social care services in the county, voted to reject a budget offer from the local authority which was £1.3 million short of what they expected.

The IJB annual budget is made up through grants from Midlothian Council and NHS Lothian.

But its chief financial officer Claire Flanagan told the board that while NHS Lothian had offered a budget which included an increase on last year’s offer, the council had not, and it left the IJB’s annual funding an additional £1.3m short.

Board members agreed not to ‘formally accept’ the budget offer from the council – although it was accepted it was unlikely the council would change its decision – saying it would ‘send a message’ to the local authority.

In anticipation of the council not increasing the offer the board was presented with a range of options to recoup the missing money, with withdrawal from extra care housing planned for Newmills Road, Dalkeith, top of officers’ list.

The new 48 unit complex is part of a £17m redevelopment of the old Dalkeith High School site by Midlothian Council.

A report to the board said withdrawing from project would save £647,000 a year, although board members raised concerns about the impact on the council and long term financial impact on health services in the county.

Other options put forward included raising the percentage of care at home services provided by external partners over in-house carers and withholding funds to pass the real living wage increase to private contractors.

The board was told that the council was also expected to approve using capital funding of £1m to support a move from analogue to digital alarms by the board this year to help ease the financial pressure.

Board members raised concerns about agreeing to any of the money-saving options presented without more research and they were deferred for a decision until June.

However they agreed to a request from chief officer Morag Barrow to pause progress on setting up services for the Newmills Road housing.

Ms Barrow said the new units were due to handed over to the council in June, but she said without the extra funding from the council there simply was not the cash to provide the service.

And when asked what the council would do with the housing if the extra care services were withdrawn she said: “I would hope they would fill the flats or use them in a different way.”

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