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A catalogue of waste

Jay | 05.11.2004 19:26 | Liverpool

The City Council in Liverpool has been found to be wasting millions of pounds and failing to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

The Liberal Democrat City Council in Liverpool has been found to be wasting millions of pounds and failing to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The local paper, The Liverpool Echo, has revealed that an audit of services has revealed a catalogue of shameful waste by the Lib Dem administration.

Details below:

LIVERPOOL council has wasted and misspent taxpayers' money from a £46m grant, the ECHO can reveal.

A damning report by government watchdogs says that council leaders have failed the most vulnerable people, and says some of the city's homeless accommodation is as bad as Edwardian workhouses.

The £46,124,127 of government cash was given to Liverpool to help the needy.

Homeless people, refugees, asylum seekers, young people leaving care, the elderly and women fleeing domestic violence should benefit from the the council's Supporting People 2003/04 programme, for housing and social care.

But the Audit Commission Inspection Report levels heavy criticism at elected councillors and officers, and gives their handling of the fund a "poor" no-star rating with "uncertain" prospects for improvement.

The Audit Commision's 34-page report criticises the Supporting People team for failing to administer the fund properly, leading to a lack of adequate monitoring.

It says the lack of a joint approach between frontline health and social care staff poses high risks to some vulnerable people, and highlights the lack of support for elderly people.

"Only a small proportion - £2,952,000 - of the grant is spent on older people, despite Liverpool having a higher than average number of people over the age of 75 and a high level of emergency admissions of older people to hospital," the report says.

The council, which received a £45,786,029 grant for 2004/05, accepts the report's findings. It says a plan has been launched to bring about changes and a new team set up to sort out the mess.

Tony Hunter, executive director with responsibility for supported living, told the ECHO: "It's clear that we have a long way to go to improve and we are committed to delivering that change."

The report states there is confusion amongst staff over who is eligible for the money, adding: "...there is evidence of inefficiencies, waste and inappropriate use of the grant. "There has been little political or corporate executive oversight."

Liverpool was inspected in the second year of the Programme by the Audit Commission and was one of 19 administering local authorities considered by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to have the highest service costs.

The grant is the second highest in the country - the highest was £55m to Birmingham.

Under the Programme the council works in partnership with three local primary care trusts and the Liverpool probation service.

There are 137 service providers: these include housing associations, private landlords, sheltered accommodation and home improvement agencies.

Yet the report notes: "Some services for homeless people have been described as being "like the work-houses of the 1910s." The average cost of housingrelated support services funded from the Supporting People grant in Liverpool is £80.42 per week.

This is the average weekly cost for each person receiving support when the total number of services provided across the city are divided by the total grant.

In other comparable cities the figure is £33.04; the average cost in England is £28.30.

Failings in Liverpool are blamed by the inspectors on council staff and leaders alike.

It states: "Frontline staff lack knowledge about the Supporting People programme and do not direct people to the support that could be offered ... there has been little involvement by corporate management or politicians."

The Audit Commission's report covers the period from April 2003 until March 2004 and follows the two week inspection in June.

Inspectors say incorrect information about the number of people being supported makes cost analysis of services unreliable and payments "questionable".

"Performance and financial management information is poor," it says.

The report criticises the council for concentrating its effort in the city centre and for not following government guidelines and makes a list of 18 recommendations to improve the service which council bosses must meet.

It concludes: "The challenges created by the previous lack of strategic direction are considerable."

But the inspectors did note that the council showed a commitment to supporting vulnerable people and had some effective specialist services for people from black and ethnic minority communities.

Today Joe Anderson, Leader of Liverpool's Labour Group, said: "This report is a damning indictment of political mismanagement.

"Millions of pounds of taxpayers money has been inappropriately spent.

"The report says this council has not effectively fulfilled its role as the administering local authority, it has not been strategically led or actively monitored by elected members or executive managers and it has not been integrated into the council's corporate delivery of support to vulnerable people or other key strategies.

"Councillor Jeremy Chowings and Councillor Flo Clucas are the elected members who have been responsible for this Programme of late. "They should take full responsibility for the criticisms made and resign or be sacked."