ELDERLEY residents locked in a battle over ‘wrongful’ care charges have called on the council to provide evidence that they agreed to the fees.

However, Cheshire West and Chester says the residents have already ‘had the opportunity to raise any concerns about this process through the Council’s complaints process’.

The dispute is over a £6-per-week charge for the use of an emergency pull cord system at the Abbotswood care facility in Chester — with ward councillors from the ruling Labour group questioning its legal basis last week.

Now, in a statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, residents have challenged the authority to produce ‘documentation’ which shows they agreed to pay for the discretionary service — with that consent required under the 2003 Local Government Act.

The statement said: “Residents have asked the council several times to provide copies of any documentation to confirm its statement that residents ‘agreed upon moving into the apartments’, that would lead CWAC to believe that residents with no care needs would have a clear understanding a charge would be made by the council — which fell outside the remit of those services as detailed in a council-produced booklet.

“Within this booklet these services relate to someone having had an assessment with the council, and assessed as needing the level of service provided within the banding system.

“Since 2014 the council has charged all residents in accordance with the bandings listed in this booklet. Those listed as band 1 [were] charged as though assessments had actually been conducted, and wrongfully charging for these band 1 services without assessment resulted in the council already having to make refunds costing circa £1 million.

“We did not agree to the provision of a service we were not assessed as needing, as previously and wrongfully charged under Section 14 of the Care Act [2014], nor did we agree to, and to accept the provision of, a discretionary service under Section 93 of the Local Government Act 2003, should the council introduce such a service.”

The issue was first raised last week following a Cheshire West cabinet meeting, with a subsequent statement from the authority saying the charge is ‘an intrinsic part of the extra care housing model nationally, enabling rapid response to emergency situations to support residents’, which was ‘noted in the documentation provided to Cheshire West residents upon purchase or rental of the apartments’.

Now, a council spokesperson has told the LDRS: “Residents have had the opportunity to raise any concerns about this process through the Council’s complaints process. 

“All residents who remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of their complaint about the charge and/or their personal information have been made aware of their right to raise their concerns with either the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman or the Information Commissioner.

"Alternatively, they may seek independent legal advice on what other options may be available to them.”

This episode is a resumption of five-year-long battle over the care charges, which originally culminated in CWAC re-paying roughly 400 residents a total of £840,000 in 2020.