England

Durham County Council set to approve care home closures

Council bosses in Durham are to press ahead with plans to close the five remaining care homes it runs in the county, despite public opposition.

Almost 50% of those who responded to a three-month public consultation wanted them to retain the homes and find more than £4m to upgrade them.

But retaining the homes was "not value for money" amid a budget savings target of £222m by 2017, the council said.

The homes employ 170 people and have about 50 permanent residents.

The consultation offered three options; keeping and repairing the homes in Belmont, Peterlee, Stanhope, Chester-le-Street and Ferryhill; closing them and moving residents to independently owned and run homes or finding another organisation which could take them over.

'Significant financial constraints'

Morris Nicholls, the council's cabinet member for adult services, said they recognised "the strength of feeling among a range of people" on what was a "very emotive issue".

But, he said, they were operating under "significant financial constraints" and ther was a need to "ensure that our services offer value for money and are fit for purpose".

"Our recommendations for a way forward take into account a wide range of factors, including the desire for people to stay in their own homes for longer, a fall in demand for residential care places and the need for significant investment in the five properties," said Mr Nicholls.

Campaigners, including unions and relatives, claim the closures will put undue strain on elderly residents.

Richard Bell, leader of the council's Conservative group, has urged the authority to reconsider planned capital projects rather than target frontline services.

Councillors are due approve the closures at a meeting on 16 April.

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