Campaigners fighting care home closures have slammed Doncaster Council’s decision to spend millions on settling a 10-year legal dispute.Doncast
Mayor Ros Jones and her cabinet have agreed to pay Sheffield Council £2.5 million to bring to an end the long-running saga which followed the shocking revelation of large-scale corruption at the former South Yorkshire Trading Standards Unit, of which Doncaster was one of four partner authorities.
The unit was exposed as making losses totalling £13.5 million in 2005, and a criminal investigation showed the deceased head of the unit had been engaged in false accounting for the last decade of his life.
The trading standards unit was found to be not financially viable and was closed and its assets sold off. Three accomplices of the man in charge were later given suspended prison sentences.
Since then Sheffield Council has been trying to recover some of the losses from Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley councils, and external auditors have been applying pressure on the authorities to resolve the dispute.
The other councils felt Sheffield should bear a larger portion of the cost because it was responsible for the accounting and should have discovered the problem earlier.
But fear of expensive litigation has persuaded Doncaster Council to settle the claim for an all-inclusive figure of £2.5 million. More than £3 million had already been set aside for the case.
The decision has angered people who have been fighting cuts to council services, including the proposed closure of seven old people’s care homes and four social education centres across the borough. Carol Murden, of Madingley Close, Balby, said: “The Mayor stated, as she usually does, that it was a very hard decision to make cuts to services.
“But strangely it has come to light she has allegedly given £2.5 million to her cronies at Sheffield Council, to help with their incompetence. Was this a hard decision? This money could have gone to help save our own services from closure.”
And former Elected Mayor Peter Davies said: “Doncaster has apparently offered Sheffield £2.5m in full settlement instead of fighting this disgraceful claim.
“However, Sheffield may still claim £6.5m including interest.”
Simon Wiles, Doncaster’s director of finance and corporate services, said: “After taking independent legal advice on the liability, this proposal is the most appropriate and cost effective solution to finally resolve this matter.
“The council always knew about this liability and was always going to have an obligation to pay. This is the best deal we could get and we had money set aside in the budget to meet the cost.
“The council always knew about this liability and we had money set aside in the budget to meet the cost. Following lengthy negotiations with Sheffield Council we have agreed a favourable settlement and we can now draw a line under this issue which has lasted almost 10 years.”