DENBIGHSHIRE'S cabinet  was slammed for setting ‘the lowest care home fees in Wales’ at a meeting this week.

Denbighshire County Council’s cabinet agreed an 8.8% increase in residential and nursing care home fees for 2024/25 at the cost of just over £1m.

The decision follows Care Forum Wales claiming the 8.8% rise amounts to an actual cut when inflation and other costs are factored in.

As of December 2023, Denbighshire commissioned 364 placements in 82 homes to provide care and support for older people in residential, EMI residential, nursing and EMI nursing placements.

The placements are expected to cost the council an estimated £13m from a total of £39m spent on care packages across the whole of adult social care. Although most placements are paid for by Denbighshire, some are also jointly funded by the health board.

But speaking at the cabinet meeting at Denbighshire’s Ruthin County Hall HQ, Cllr Bobby Feeley slammed the 8.8% rise before she was abruptly silenced by the leader.

Cllr Feeley criticised the level of consultation carried out with homes around the level of fees and the fact that Care Forum Wales were not on board with the 8.8% rise proposals.

“I also note that only three providers have entered into discussions (consultation with Denbighshire), although a further six (care homes) made email contact, but despite discussions last year outlining your wish to have meaningful dialogue with providers, this does not seem to have happened because I think you must agree that three is not many out of 82 (care homes),” said Cllr Feeley.

“And I understand that Care Forum Wales are still not on board with the regional fee (setting) group. Could you have done more getting them involved?”

But Denbighshire’s head of adult social care Ann Lloyd said the consultation was more about identifying the priority issues and developing a new methodology.

Ms Lloyd said Care Forum Wales were a significant part of the regional fee-setting group and were ‘very dominant’ in terms of their presence.

Cllr Feeley responded: “I still feel that in excess of 70 providers not engaging is a problem,” she said.

“We can see from the numerous problems that have been outlined. It seems the care home sector is as fragile as the residents they care for, and you do say you’ve approached the issue of care fees with diligence and prudence, and maybe, possibly, it needs to be approached with a little bit more care, compassion, and realism.

“I know we have budget pressures, many of which are caused, we are told relentlessly, by social care pressures, and this seriously in turn affects are other services, who are struggling because of the amount of money you need for social care, yet for all of that, we still pay the lowest care home fees in Wales.”

Cllr Elen Heaton is the cabinet member for health and social care and claimed an 8.8% rise was a substantial uplift when compared to the 3.8% local government settlement rise Denbighshire received from Welsh Government.

Denbighshire’s 3.8% was the largest settlement increase received of all six councils in North Wales.

“I think your understanding is we’ve only consulted with nine of our (care home) providers,” she said.

“That’s not the case. We’ve offered to engage with every single one of our providers. We engaged with them. That informed our fee-setting process. We proposed the 8.8% increase, which may I add is substantially more than the modest 3.8% increase that we’ve received in our settlement, and then we have consulted on that proposal with our providers, and of the 82 homes, nine of our providers have come back on that consultation, and yes, three of them met with us.”

Denbighshire’s director of social services Nicola Stubbins then said it was an ongoing process with care providers before Cllr Feeley attempted to speak again.

“The figures do speak for themselves, don’t they?” said Cllr Feeley.

But leader Cllr Jason McLellan silenced Cllr Feeley with his mute button.

Cllr McLellan said he "hated" muting her but argued cabinet members had priority when speaking and accused Cllr Feeley of persisting to talk when asked to cease speaking.

Cllr McLellan added, “We’ve got an open door. Anyone can talk to us at any time. Nine (care homes) have done that. That doesn’t mean to say that the other 73 we are not engaging with.”

Cllr Julie Matthews proposed cabinet backed the proposal. and this was seconded by Cllr Rhys Thomas. The cabinet’s vote was unanimous.