'Sell off' plans for care homes in Suffolk

Unions fear that thousands of Suffolk council jobs may be lost

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Sixteen care homes in Suffolk could be sold off or closed altogether as part of package of measures to meet county council budget cutbacks.

The council's cabinet is putting out to consultation the future of the homes as part of its plans to outsource a large range of services.

The council also backed the dimming of streetlights across county and a cut in park and ride schemes.

The strategy as a whole aims to save the council 30% of its £1.1bn budget.

'Ideology driven'

A report to the council says the three options for the 16 homes, which include care homes in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft, are:

  • Closing the homes and commissioning alternative services from the independent sector;
  • Selling the homes as "going concerns";
  • Closing a number of homes and transferring the remaining homes to the independent sector.

Colin Noble, portfolio holder for adult services, said he believed that the council should be providing care home provision. "The private sector sector can do it," he said.

Ann Glover, from the public sector union Unison, said: "The council is pursuing an ideology to get rid of services."

The council also backed consulting parish and districts councils over plans to dim street lights.

The council owns 55,000 lights and manages a further 11,250.

'Waste of resources'

Motoring groups have already raised fears about the safety of motorists and pedestrians.

Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for transport at the council, said: "Road safety is of paramount importance, but at the same time lights which are on which are not needed and not used is a waste of resources.

"It's not just the issue of carbon footprint, but of saving council taxpayers' money."

The cabinet has approved the proposal to fund a lighting system which will allow them to switch off some of their streetlights between midnight and 0530 and dim the lights in busier areas including main roads and major interchanges.

The system would cost around £2.5m and the local authority estimates it would save about £550,000 a year on energy bills.

"The cost of borrowing it [the £2.5m] and the money we would save as we go forward results in an intelligent use of the public purse," said Mr McGregor.

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