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Derbyshire council rejects opposition’s call to further review costs of care home closure plans

Conservative-led Derbyshire County Council has rejected a call from opposition councillors for the authority to further investigate subsequent long-term care costs before deciding on plans to close up to 11 elderly care homes as part of multi-million pound saving plans.

The council has already launched a public consultation as part of plans to consider the undecided future of eleven residential homes and eight day opportunity services for elderly people after identifying potential savings of over £5.2m with possible care home closures and over £1.3m with possible day centre closures.

And Labour councillors, led by Labour Group Deputy Leader Ruth George, tabled a motion which was considered and rejected after a vote during a heated debate at a Full Council meeting on May 22 calling for further investigations into the possible future financial impact and risks of the plans for the council and residents.

The plans have previously attracted a protest outside the council’s headquarters at County Hall, on Matlock, and the latest meeting saw Conservative Cllr Nigel Gourlay oppose the proposals in support of the Labour’s call for a further investigation.

Labour Cllr Ruth George told the meeting: “This motion asks to look again at the dire financial situation of this local authority and the Cabinet’s continued need to make savings.”

She argued ‘headline savings’ and costs can mean greater expenses down the road and that opposition councillors had made a similar argument during a failed attempt to stop 10 children centre closures at a recent scrutiny committee meeting.

Cllr George added: “At a time when there is more demand on care and costs on residential nursing care it’s important for the council to look at ongoing costs.”

She questioned what alternative support for residents might look like without council-run care homes and that one concerned person she had spoken to had said they would be left at ‘crisis point’ without a care centre.

Cllr George also argued that closures would also see the council having to throw more money to the private sector to fill the gaps.

The council is considering closing either nine or 11 of its 16 care homes as well as eight older people day centres to save millions of pounds and help balance its estimated budget deficit of over £39m for the current financial year.

It has argued that there is a need for a new focus to be placed on services for people with dementia and their carers.

The plans come two years after the authority closed seven care homes in 2022 despite widespread opposition.

As part of one of the options under consideration, the 11 care homes earmarked for possible closure would include: Briar Close, Borrowash; Bennerley Fields, Ilkeston; Castle Court, Swadlincote; Florence Shipley, Heanor; The Grange, Eckington; Lacemaker Court, Long Eaton; The Leys, Ashbourne; New Bassett House, Shirebrook; Rowthorne, Swanwick; Thomas Colledge, Bolsover; And Whitestones, at Chapel-en-le-Frith.

The alternative option would involve the closure of nine care homes including: Briar Close, Bennerley Fields, Castle Court,The Grange, The Leys, New Bassett House, Rowthorne, Thomas Colledge and Whitestones so Florence Shipley and Lacemaker Court would be spared. 

And the day centres which face possible closures under both options include: Blackwell Day Centre, Blackwell; Eccles Fold Day Centre, Chapel-en-le-Frith; Fabrick Day Services, Hilton; Hasland Resource Centre, at Hasland, Chesterfield; Jubilee Centre, New Mills; Queens Court, Buxton; Shirebrook Resource Centre; And Valley View Day Centre, Bolsover. 

Labour Cllr Dave Allen said that without council-run care homes the responsibility will fall to the private sector and that cost will continue to rise for the council and residents. 

Fellow Labour Cllr Anne Clarke said that residents have been ‘absolutely frightened’ and one feels ‘devastated’ about the plans and if the council is not careful the independent private sector will set their own prices causing the council to pay much more when it picks up subsequent care costs.   

Labour Leader, Cllr Joan Dixon, said that a resident had told her that Thomas Colledge is a ‘wonderful care home with such wonderful staff’ and it has been a ‘lifeline’ for elderly people.  

Fellow Labour Cllr Kevin Gillott also said: “Part of the problem we are facing is we are spending more and more because of private sector provision and we are being held hostage.”  

Conservative Cllr Natalie Hoy, Cabinet Member for Adult Care, described the opposition councillors’ motion as ‘silly’ because she feels the plans are already scheduled to go through a thorough consideration process before any decision. 

She said: “We are undertaking a consultation to get views from residents and it will go back to scrutiny and it will get the people of Derbyshire to look at it with detail and it will go to Cabinet with views and analysis and a decision will be made to ensure the best outcome is for Derbyshire people and tax payers.” 

Cllr Hoy also said the council cannot dismiss the fact that Derbyshire residents want to remain in their own homes and that the council is currently one of the very few authorities that still run care homes and day centres. 

The Conservative Council Leader, Cllr Barry Lewis, said that no decisions have yet been made regarding the future of the care homes and day centres but because of increased care demands, particularly for dementia, the council needs to deliver savings. 

Conservative Cllr Nigel Gourlay received applause from the Labour councillors after he backed the Labour opposition’s call for a further investigation and stressed that during the last three years he has been vocal in his opposition to the closure of care homes. 

He told the meeting: “If I had been told the truth, that this Conservative council would be closing Whitestones and Eccles Fold then I would not have stood as a candidate and I would not have voted Conservative at that election.  

“My neighbours know how I feel about this issue, and they expect me to stand up today and tell Barry Lewis, Natalie Hoy, and the rest of the Cabinet that they are wrong.” 

Cllr Gourlay added: “If you were to ask a sensible voter in Chapel to make a choice, either to close a country park or a facility for dementia sufferers, I am sure they would come to a different decision than that which is being proposed by this council.  

“If you were to ask a more difficult question, to close an outward-bound centre, or even to close libraries, I’m pretty sure that rational people – after some thought – would decide to protect the vulnerable. That is why I will be voting with Labour today to refer this matter to scrutiny and give the Cabinet and council more time to reconsider these proposals.” 

Conservative Cllr Wayne Major argued the council’s plans will deliver potential savings and that the private sector will be able to deliver more effective services. 

Deputy Leader and Conservative, Cllr Simon Spencer, said he has repeatedly asked councillors to help with ideas to meet the council’s financial challenges to help make sure the council does not go into bankruptcy.

He added that care homes across the country are being provided by other sectors than local authorities because they can be delivered more effectively and they are more financially viable and that the increased need to address dementia services means there has to be a changed model.

Cllr Spencer also said if the council ended up facing bankruptcy – which he said would not be as a result of a lack of commitment by members and staff – the discussion on care homes would be ‘superfluous’.

The Conservative-controlled council voted against and defeated the opposition Labour councillors’ motion which had urged the council to further investigate the full financial implications and risks and to further review the matter.

A public consultation is still underway on the two possible options to close either nine or 11 care homes along with the proposed closure of eight day centres in both cases with the aim of increasing support for people with dementia and their carers.

An online questionnaire is available on the council’s website and at arranged drop-in sessions at libraries.

The drop-ins will be held between 10am and midday on the following dates and at the following locations: May 28, Chapel-en-le-Frith Library, Town Hall, Market Square; May 31, Alfreton Library, Severn Square; June 3, Swadlincote Library, Civic Way; June 5, Chesterfield Library, New Beetwell Street; June 6, Long Eaton Library, Tamworth Road; June 7, Eckington Library, Market Street; June 12, Ashbourne Library, Compton; June 17, Bolsover Library, Church Street; June 18, Ilkeston Library, Market Place; June 19, Heanor Library, Ilkeston Road; And July 2, Buxton Library, Kents Bank Road.

Two online public meetings will also take place from 6.30pm to 7.30pm on June 19 and June 26 but they must be booked by contacting the council’s stakeholder engagement and consultation team on 01629 531307 or by emailing asch.tell.adultcare@derbyshire.gov.uk.

A further consultation concerning staffing is expected to take place after the consultation on the closure plans.

The council has stated that like many authorities it has been struggling due to reduced Government funding, the financial impact from the Covid-19 pandemic, high inflation rates, rising costs, the cost of living crisis, and a growing demand on services.

 

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