Durham council-run care homes set to close despite strong opposition

Durham County Council says closures must go ahead as homes would cost £4m to maintain over 10 years

Cllr John Shuttleworth at the Newtown House Care home in Stanhope which has earmarked for closure
Cllr John Shuttleworth at the Newtown House Care home in Stanhope which has earmarked for closure

A council stands accused of letting down its elderly people as the last of its care homes look set to close.

Durham County Council says its five remaining homes are not fit for purpose and would cost £4.1m over the next decade to maintain.

It means 172 staff could lose their job and 40 elderly people will have to find new homes, despite hard-fought campaigns against the move.

During a 12-week consultation on the future of Newtown House in Stanhope, Cheveley House in Belmont, Feryemount in Ferryhill, Grampian House in Peterlee and Mendip House in Chester-le-Street, around 700 people opposed the move.

But now, officers say the closures should go ahead and cabinet members, which meet next week, are now likely to agree, effectively ending council-run care homes in the county.

Les Blackett, 55, from Wearhead, says his mother Eva, 94 and a resident at Newtown House, will no longer spend the remainder of her days in Weardale, where she has lived all her life, and will be forced to move.

He said: “All the work we have done to try and keep the home open has had a colossal amount of support and the council is just going to carry on regardless.

“My mum has been in Newtown House for 15 months. She doesn’t want to go anywhere else to finish her life.

“This is discriminating against people living in rural areas because it will mean more travelling for us. It seems they have looked at all of the homes together and just decided ‘we want to be out of this’.”

Coun John Shuttleworth, an independent representative for the Weardale ward, last night hit out, dismissing the consultation as a ‘sham’.

He said: “It’s typical, the council consults and never listens. The Labour-controlled cabinet members are simply puppets for the senior officers and have no backbone in decision making whatsoever. The council has discriminated against people in rural areas and took no notice of concerns raised by residents.

“This violates their human rights because residents will have to move out of Weardale and have no right to die where they were brought up. The wellbeing of the elderly has most certainly not been considered.”

Coun Morris Nicholls, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for adult services, defended the plans.

She said: “We have carefully considered all of the feedback we received and appreciate all of the issues raised. However, at a time of significant financial constraints we also need to balance these concerns with the 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, particularly in regard to our own residential care homes; the need for significant investment in the five properties; and the availability of suitable, lower cost accommodation within the independent sector.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer