PASSIONATE campaigners determined to save their loved ones from the threat of losing their homes have voiced their protests outside a county hall.
Chants of “save our homes” rang out each time a member of Durham County Council’s cabinet filed into their headquarters yesterday, for their first meeting since the election.
Crowds of concerned care home staff and residents’ family members were outside the Durham city centre building, waving placards emblazoned with the clear message to stop any plans to shut seven of the council’s 12 homes for the elderly.
The lobby group has vowed to continue with their fight until d-day on July 21 when, following a consultation, councillors will vote on the controversial issue.
Those earmarked for closure are Hackworth House in Shildon, Stanfield House in Stanley, Lynwood House in Lanchester, Glendale House in Blackhall, Manor House in Annfield Plain, East Green in West Auckland and Shafto House in Newton Aycliffe.
Care bosses cite escalating repair costs and a decline in the demand for bed spaces as reasons for the move.
Despite fears of reprisal, care home staff stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the families in their fight to save the under threat council-run service from being axed.
One care assistant at Hackworth House, who didn’t want to be named said: “We are one of two homes with a three star standard and still they want to close us down. We were devastated when we first heard the news, devastated for our residents.
“To us it is a job but to them it is their home. We see the tears and are there to console them as they don’t want to move and leave their friends. This has been distressing for everyone.
“The council say it is costing too much to get the homes up to standard but they shouldn’t have let them get run down in the first place.”
Ellen Pattison’s 90-year-old mum lives at Glendale House in Blackhall. She said: “There is no other facility like this in the area. Two residents there are 105. It would be a shame to lose them to private care.
“We will fight this, the building is sound, is well used and is these people’s home.
“The council should be taking care of them not trying to close them.”
Also present at the protest was 45-year-old Carole Nugent-Wood, daughter of former Labour Durham County Council leader Albert Nugent who died last month after a long illness.
He worked to save the care homes from closure four years ago.
Carole said: “We are here as dad couldn’t be. This was something he felt very strongly about.
“This is a family campaign now, it was important to dad and we will fight this together.”
A spokesman for Durham County Council has thanked everyone who took part in a consultation on the care home issue.
He added: “Following the end of the formal consultation on the future of council-run care homes officers are now in the process of considering the information we have gathered and will be preparing a report for members.”