Plans to transfer community alarm services run by housing associations to One Connect Limited have been scrapped by Lancashire County Council.
A contract worth tens of thousands of pounds had been set to hand responsibility for telecare and call monitoring functions to the BT contact centre in Accrington.
The previous Conservative-led council wanted to make the switch under the terms of a deal signed with One Connect Limited (OCL), a partnership between BT and Lancashire County Council, in May 2011.
It would have seen OCL work with a company called Tunstall Healthcare, which would provide new telecare equipment and a home response service, for example when a resident has an emergency such as a fall.
Former council leader Coun Geoff Driver said the plan was to replace multiple schemes with one consistent, improved service to gain “significant savings” through economies of scale.
However, the Evening Post can reveal that, following concern from tenants and the existing providers, the plans have now been abandoned.
It comes after the council’s chief executive Phil Halsall was suspended from work and a disciplinary investigation launched into allegations BT and OCL were shown favouritism when bidding for a £5m deal to run the authority’s fleet maintenance services.
It was awarded to BT and signed off by Mr Halsall and Coun Driver on April 26 – six days before the election which eventually saw him replaced by Labour County Coun Jennifer Mein.
The council had been in talks with more than 30 organisations about community alarms, including the likes of Community Gateway Association (CGA) and Places for People, since September 2012.
County Coun Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult community services, said: “We have decided to look again at the best way to provide telecare and community alarm systems across the county, and will work closely with the current providers to draw up a new set of proposals.
“In the meantime, we have extended the existing contracts until March 31, 2014.”
It is understood several housing associations lobbied the council because they were seriously concerned about the plans.
Coun Mein said: “I had grave misgivings about it and the decision has more or less been taken that One Connect Limited aren’t going to be doing it now and we won’t be signing a contract anytime soon.
“We’ve extended the contracts as they are pending a full review and another look at it, which is satisfying as far as I’m concerned.
“I’m very sorry about the amount of stress and uncertainty the providers have had.”
Tenants living in CGA properties demanded answers over the proposals earlier this year.
Ron Entwistle, 76, who lives in the CGA-managed Sunningdale in Broughton, said residents were left out of consultations and feared the cost of the service would increase.
He submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council on June 18 asking about the deal, and finally received a reply on August 7, which confirmed it had been cancelled.
He then received a letter from Gary Cook, head of supported housing at CGA, who wrote: “This is an issue that all community alarm providers have been challenging.
“I’m pleased to say we have been advised by Lancashire County Council ‘the county council will not be entering into a contract for the commissioning and delivery of telecare with either One Connect Limited for monitoring, nor with Tunstall Healthcare UK Ltd for equipment supply and maintenance, home assessment and home response.’”
Mr Entwistle said: “Tenants will be glad it’s not going over to One Connect and BT.
“I don’t think a lot of people want their information going over to One Connect, our medical details which we may have had to give to them.
“However, we’re still not happy about the level of service. If there is a change it should go out to tender and other social care providers should be involved.”
A Places for People spokesman said it had not been involved “in any sort of service provision activity” with OCL.
She said: “We were one of a range of providers due to lose the monitoring of our Lancashire customers’ alarms to One Connect Limited.
“We have since received notice the transfer will not be taking place.”
Coun Driver said the new Labour administration should explain why it had made the decision.
He said: “They ought to be transparent and upfront about it and tell the people of Lancashire why, rather than hiding behind the fact they don’t like OCL and some of the unions don’t like OCL, even if it will save the council and the people of Lancashire money.
“In the four years we were in control we spent £215m less on administration and bureaucracy and back office costs and this is the sort of thing we saved the money on.
“We would have provided a uniform, consistently better service, at a lower cost.”