LOCAL authorities are not using the same criteria when totting up statistics on grants for disabled people who need improvements in their homes, a Newport cabinet meeting heard.

It was recently reported that Newport council took 638 days to pay disability facilities grants (DFGs) compared to 175 in Merthyr Tydfil, prompting the Older Person's Commissioner to say that was unacceptable.

But the way that other local authorities calculate that figure for the grants, which are used to pay for upgrades like handrails, was questioned at a cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile cabinet approved £436,000 in cash to be spent on DFGs this year to reduce the current backlog of applicants, assessed by occupational therapists as needing adaptations. The cash will be borrowed.

Paul Cockeram, cabinet member for social care and well-being, said the last administration “took their eyes off the ball with this one.”

He said statistics for DFGs had previously been good in the city, “and now we are the worst in Wales.”

But he said that he didn't think some authorities were using the same criteria for their statistics.

“I'm not defending ours but the others need to be more truthful in their statistics as well,” he said.

He later said that the 600 days figure will “never come in front of this cabinet again”.

The meeting heard that authorities were starting counting for the statistics at different points, and that Newport starts counting when the referral comes in.

Leader of Newport council Bob Bright said it was up to the Welsh Audit Office to ensure consistency on such indicators, and suggested that the matter should be looked at by a Welsh government minister.

Matthew Evans, Tory leader and former leader of Newport council, said he recognised the council's performance on DFGs was not good enough and the administration took action to address the situation in February.

But he added: “I accept that it was too long but it was unfair to single out Newport. We were punished for being too honest.”