LAST-gasp protests have failed to overturn a decision to close a number of council-run care homes in County Durham.
Staff and families chanted “Save Our Homes” outside the meeting of Durham County Council, which yesterday was asked to note last week’s decision by the council cabinet to close seven of its 12 homes for elderly people.
Crowds gathered on the steps of Durham’s County Hall yesterday morning armed with placards and banners carrying the slogan “Council 1 v The Elderly 0”.
It was the first full meeting of the council since the cabinet last week unanimously agreed to scrap seven of its 12 care homes.
The controversial move will affect 110 residents and 230 staff.
Among the protestors was David Dutch, from Kenton Bank Foot in Newcastle, who fears the health of his 93-year-old mother Peggy will deteriorate if made to move from her home.
The 67-year-old said: “This will not be our last protest. The last protest will only be once they have dragged the old people from their homes.
“Support has stayed strong from what feels like the whole of County Durham during this campaign. There was a 49-page report on this issue and 48 pages gave evidence on why the homes should stay open. These were followed by one page where the council recommended they be closed.”
Council bosses cited escalating repair costs and a decline in the demand for spaces as reasons to shut Stanfield House in Stanley, Hackworth House in Shildon, Lynwood House in Lanchester, Glendale House in Blackhall, Manor House in Annfield Plain, East Green in West Auckland and Shafto House in Newton Aycliffe.
At last week’s cabinet meeting, Coun Henig told protesters the council would have to fork out £35m over the next 10 years if it kept the care homes open.
Lending her support to the protesters yesterday was Carole Nugent-Wood, 45, daughter of former county council leader Albert Nugent, who urged councillors to keep the homes open in the months before his death this year.
She said: “More than 9,000 people signed a petition asking for these homes to stay open and then 10 people make a final decision. That is not democracy in action.
“If the private sector can make care homes profitable why can’t an authority of this size?
“I feel over the years the council has run them down and emptied them so they are no longer viable.”
With the final decision made, there is a feeling of uncertainty among some families of those residents caught up in the closures.
Sylvia Brown, whose 105-year-old mother Emma is a resident at one of the homes earmarked for closure, said: “We have not told her yet what has happened. We don’t know what to do or what happens now and some residents have already left.”
Lesley Jeavons, the council’s head of adult care, said: “A robust and detailed plan will now be drawn up for the relocation of each individual resident.
“The views of residents and their families will be taken into account, with residents being offered alternative placements fully meeting their needs. Every effort will be made to ensure residents are re-housed together should they so wish.”