DISTRAUGHT parents of disabled youngsters who use a Kidderminster respite centre are demanding answers after figures showed the unit costs far less to run than originally thought.

A letter from Worcestershire Health and Care Trust, which runs Ludlow Road Short Breaks Centre on behalf of Worcestershire County Council, to stakeholders revealed the cost of operating the service was £458,468 – less than £160,000 than the £624,215 the authority allocates for it.

The letter also revealed Osborne Court in Malvern – where Ludlow Road users could be sent if it is closed - was operating at a loss of £237,043.

Earlier this year, the council launched a consultation into the future of Ludlow Road with one of the options being to close it and use more “cost effective” units elsewhere in the county.

But the new figures have prompted anger amongst campaigners who have been fighting the plans who have called into question the financial competence of the Tory administration.

Parents Tracey Rochelle and Amanda Danby said: “We are demanding an urgent meeting with the council and the NHS to get to the bottom of the figures that clearly don't match the information the council told parents originally.

“Do the council even know how much they are spending on Ludlow Road? Because as far as we can see they haven't got a clue.

“It's far cheaper than they think and without the funding for Ludlow Road, and if all the children move over, Osbourne Court could potentially go into crisis.

“They have either mislead us or don't know how or where their money is spent.”

Stephen Brown, of Wyre Forest Labour who launched the campaign to save Ludlow Road, added: “What these figures reveal is a staggering level of incompetence and political manipulation of the process, all so the Tory council could achieve its objective to shut this much needed and very valuable service. It’s quite unprecedented and heads should roll.

“The political leaders at County Hall seem to have completely lost sight of their duty of care to the disabled children, the children’s families, and the council’s own responsibility for due diligence when paying for such services.

“It has also cast a spotlight on the running of Osborne Court and I think the parents of the children there need some immediate reassurances.”

Councillor Fran Oborski, who chaired a Scrutiny Task Group that slammed the consultation process, said: “I think what we are discovering is that we simply cannot trust the figures on which the Cabinet paper recommending consultation on the closure was based.

“Any decision to close given it is such a muddled financial situation would, rightly in my mind, be subjected to a request to the High Court for a Judicial Review.”

In a joint statement, the council and NHS Trust said: “We are committed to continuing to provide a range of support to children who have profound needs.

“As part of this families who require respite arrangements in the county will continue to have access to support when it is needed in the future, however how these services are provided has been the subject of the County Council led public consultation started earlier this year.

“The Council, which funds these services, and the Health and Care NHS Trust, which provides the service from Ludlow Road and Osborne Court, have been in regular dialogue with families and other stakeholders in order to provide information to support this review.

“We are fully aware of the financial information, this is a complex contract and we continue to work on the details between us.

“We believe that sustainable, flexible and accessible provision is key to meeting children's needs into the future. The Trust and the County Council are working closely and we hope to meet with parents and carers together next month.

“Information gathered by the Council during its consultation with parents and carers is now being reviewed and no decisions have yet been made.”