AN alarm system that forms a key part of Barnet Council's plans after scrapping on-site wardens has been slated in the authority's internal audit.

The Telecare system, that allows elderly and vulnerable people to call for help, was identified as a significant element of the council's plans cut down on the number of wardens looking after them.

In an unpopular move the council intends to get rid of wardens living in sheltered accommodation and replace them with fewer 'floating' wardens who will visit them when needed.

The plans were ratified by the cabinet on June 8 on the basis of a report that said the £400,000 savings relied on the retention of the alarm service.

The new “floating” wardens will rely on the alarm system because they will need to know when vulnerable adults need help.

But serious concerns are raised about that service in a report to the council's audit committee, which convenes tonight.

It states there is a risk that “poor service delivery may occur and expose service users to dangerous life threatening situations”.

It adds that because the agreement between the council and the service provider has not been formalised “in the event of a misunderstanding...parties to the agreement may deny responsibility or accountability.”

Councillor Barry Rawlings, Labour group spokesman, said: “They must have known about this when they considered their options. To me it's a bit dishonest that they weren't up-front about this.

“It must have come out in their investigations. It makes the decision to get rid of wardens even more callous and unfair if they knew the system to replace them wasn't up to scratch.”

But councillor Richard Cornelius, cabinet member for community services, suggested the report backs up the Conservative's argument for change.

“The report states the underlying cause of the risk is the lack of a clear contract," he said.

"Frankly this problem exists throughout the provision of care to older people in our borough and one of the benefits of the reforms we are going to carry out will be the chance to create clear lines of responsibility.

"This audit is another argument for reform and change, not to stick to the same old outmoded system.”