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A 72-year-old pensioner has become mixed up in a dispute between Cleveland County Council and about 70 private care...
A 72-year-old pensioner has become mixed up in a dispute between Cleveland County Council and about 70 private care home owners over contracting out of services, London's High Court heard.

Kathleen Ward is battling against the County Council's refusal to fund her stay at one of the homes involved in the row. And she won a critical victory today when Mr Justice Auld declared her claims against the local authority 'arguable' and opened the way for a full Judicial Review hearing into her case.

The court heard the County Council has refused to fund Mrs Ward's stay at the Elton Hall Nursing Home, Elton Village. But the judge said it was arguable that the Council's decision was 'irrational' and that Mrs Ward was 'entitled to be funded in a care home of her own choice.' The pensioner's counsel, Mr Philip Engelman, had told the court that the County Council was involved in a dispute with the owner of the Elton Hall Nursing Home, Mr John Wilson.

He said that under the 1992 Community Care Act, which came into effect on April 1 this year, Cleveland County Council planned to farm out many of its services to private sector homes. Part of the Council's policy was to require private nursing homes to submit full audited accounts for 'financial vetting' before they could be registered as local authority approved.

He added that Mr Wilson, whose home had been registered with the local authority for several years, had submitted 'abbreviated company accounts' and had been informed by the council that these were 'insufficient.'

'He was also informed that until full accounts were submitted Elton Hall would not be placed on the council's approved list of providers and he would not be able to contract with the council,' Mr Engelman said.

He added that that decision was also the subject of a High Court Judicial Review application to be heard in London on November 1 this year. Mr Wilson, along with 'about 70 other' Cleveland care home owners, will be challenging the County Council's policy, said Mr Engelman.

He added that while Mr Wilson's dispute with the Council raged on, Mrs Ward had moved into Elton Hall after having chosen the home from the local authority's approved list. 'It was only after she had been there for two days that the Council informed her that Elton Hall was not on its approved list any longer and it would not fund her stay there,' he told the court.

'She is happy with the care she receives there and would like to remain'. Mr Justice Auld granted Mrs Ward leave to seek Judicial Review of the Council's decision. And he directed that her case should be heard immediately after the Cleveland care home owners' application on November 1 this year.

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