Council holds private talks to discuss care transfer

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Scottish Borders Council has defended the decision to go into private session today to discuss the transfer of all its adult care services to a new limited liability company.

A special meeting of all 34 elected members has been called to consider implementation in just two months’ time of a switch involving nearly 1,000 full and part-time staff involved in a range of services currently delivered in-house.

These include home care, day care for the elderly and the disabled and the running of five residential homes.

A report will focus on the governance and contractual arrangements of the new arms-length company – SB Cares – which will have an annual budget of over £17million and compete for clients with independent providers.

The Southern sought to discover why a matter of such public interest should be discussed behind closed doors.

A council spokesperson responded: “The report…is being taken in private primarily for two reasons.

“Firstly, it contains information about identifiable members of staff in relation to proposed interim appointments to the council care company [SB Cares].

“In addition, councillors will be discussing the proposed partnership agreement which sets out the contractual arrangements required to be established between the two parties [council and care company] which includes items 
of a commercially sensitive nature.”

Much of the groundwork for the April 1 transfer appears to have been done already, with records lodged at Companies House revealing that Scottish Borders Cares LLP (SB Cares) was incorporated on December 15 last year. It has two named directors – SBC Nominees Ltd and the council itself.

SBC Nominees Ltd was incorporated on December 3 and is described as a private company, limited by guarantee with no share capital.

The decision in principle to outsource the essential in-house services was taken last year and acknowledged that SBC must trim £5.6million from its social work budget over the next five years. Over the same period, demand from those aged over 65 for care services is set to surge by 11 per cent.

Another driver for the change is the emergence of self-directed support (SDS) whereby service users are given the means to choose their favoured care provider.

The council spokesperson said a media briefing would be set up in the next few weeks about the “implementation, structure and management” of the new company, and added: “It is also intended to take a further report to council later in February which we do not anticipate being private.”