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Council 'minutes' from closing care home 'on the spot'

Derbyshire's county council leader says the authority was "minutes" from using emergency powers to close a dis-repaired care home "on the spot".

This comes in a remarkable week in which Derbyshire County Council’s Conservative leadership made a dramatic U-turn on plans to close seven care homes following strong public opposition.

Papers this week revealed that 90 per cent of those who responded to the council’s consultation on closures opposed the plans.

In a meeting of the council’s cabinet yesterday (Thursday, June 4) Cllr Barry Lewis, leader of the authority, denied the move was a U-turn, saying “we never intended to go down this road”.

In January, the authority announced plans which could see seven council care homes closed due to significant disrepair, that they did not meet modern standards and a perceived declining need for residential care over the next couple of decades.

In yesterday’s meeting, Cllr Lewis said: “It is fair to say we didn’t want to put any of this pressure or stress on residents and their families and staff, who particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic have done remarkable work.

“I want to put on record our thanks for that.

“We have a duty and a responsibility to look at these things and consider them. That’s why we went down the road that we did and it was entirely necessary that we did it.

“We were literally minutes at times on the cusp of having to hand over these sort of emergency powers to the director of adult care to potentially close that, a home, on the spot, and we didn’t want to be in that position, ideally.”

In March, Cllr Lewis said the extent of disrepair at the seven homes meant some may close during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic due to imminent electrical safety issues.

This year the council has spent £1.24 million in emergency measures such as fire alarms and fire doors to make the seven threatened homes safer.

The Derbyshire Conservatives made the care home closure reversal in a press release on its website, not through the county council.

Yesterday, Cllr Paul Smith, leader of the Labour opposition, asked if this was a “wise” choice.

In response, Cllr Jean Wharmby, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “The press release sent out last Friday was to inform all involved and put their minds at rest.

“I understand the stress and anxiety that this (the closure plans) has caused to residents, relatives and staff.”

In its press release on Friday, May 29, the group pledged that “no DCC-run care home will close in Derbyshire before the onset of 2022”.

This would push any care home closures until after the May 2021 council elections, which Labour says makes the move purely political.

In the lead up to the 2017 county council election, the Conservatives had pledged not to close any care homes.

Cllr Carol Hart: “It was awful that we were having to look at breaking our pledge. We will look at building new homes somewhere close by.

“We will be able to move them into new provision in a couple or three years’ time. We inherited homes in this condition and have done all we can.”

More than 9,000 people had signed petitions objecting to the closures.

Campaigners, union officials and Conservative MPs for Erewash and the High Peak have welcomed the reversal as a “victory for common sense”.

It is thought that around 195 residents would have been affected by the potential care home closures, along with 311 members of staff.

Seven homes had been set to close within the next 15 months.

East Clune Care Home in Clowne, Ladycross in Sandiacre, Beechcroft in West Hallam and The Spinney in Brimington are the facilities which were set to close from this September.

Meanwhile Holmlea Care Home in Tibshelf, Goyt Valley in New Mills and Gernon Manor in Bakewell could have closed from September 2021.

Plans to refurbish three homes at a cost of £11.5 million are still to go ahead. Residents will be allowed to stay during refurb but advised it is likely to cause disruption. They will be offered the option to move out temporarily.

The refurbishment plans would impact 105 residents and 147 staff at Briar Close House in Borrowash; Rowthorne in Swanwick and New Bassett House in Shirebrook.


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