Tyne & Wear

Durham County Council approves care home closures

Council bosses in Durham have rubberstamped plans to close the five remaining elderly care homes the authority runs in the county.

The facilities in Belmont, Peterlee, Chester-le-Street, Stanhope and Ferryhill employ 170 people and have about 40 residents.

Needing savings of £222m by 2017, the Labour-run council has said retaining the homes was "not value for money".

Campaigners claimed the closures would put strain on the elderly residents.

Council leader Simon Henig said: "Clearly nobody wants the facility they use to be closed down and that is understandable.

"But unfortunately, the position we are in is that the council moving forward will be smaller.

"There will be less buildings, not just in terms of residential care homes but all of our facilities."

'Lost sleep'

One councillor told the meeting of the authority's cabinet, held earlier at Crook, that she had "lost sleep" over the plans.

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

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

Among those campaigning to save the homes was resident Donald Robson, 83.

He said: "They'd already made their minds up. They'd already decided. The dye was cast.

"Even when we said, 'How would you like to lose your home?' it didn't make any difference."

The residents will now move into private sector care.

Councillor Lucy Hovvels, cabinet member for safer and healthier communities, said: "There is no denying that people feel very strongly and we fully understand this.

"We now need to begin the process of planning the closures in a carefully managed way that takes full account of residents' needs."

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