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Renewed care home closure plans met with widespread opposition

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021 3:52pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Goyt Valley House in New Mills - one of the care homes which could potentially close.

Plans to potentially close seven Derbyshire council-run care homes have been met with an outcry from unions, opposition councillors and a Conservative rebel.

Derbyshire County Council is set to launch a consultation into the future of seven of its care homes, with the options ranging from long-term closure to permanent closure.

It had cancelled its plans last year after mass public opposition and pledged not to close a home without a ready replacement.

A Conservative councillor on the Tory-run authority has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he intends to rebel against his party’s plans.

Alongside this, Labour opposition councillors say the plans pose “further upset and uncertainty” for vulnerable residents and their families.

Trade union groups have said it was time for councillors to listen to the public on care home closures and the widespread opposition to the plans.

Conservative Cllr Nigel Wetters Gourlay, who represents the Chapel and Hope Valley division and is a cabinet support member for education, said he is “leaning towards” breaking party lines and standing against the potential closures.

He said this was “the only way I will be able to look my neighbours in the face”.

Cllr Gourlay, who was elected to the council in May, told the LDRS: “At the May elections, I made a commitment to support carers and care homes.

“I believe Derbyshire Conservatives made a commitment not to close Goyt Valley House without alternative provision in place.

“I await assurances from the county council that there will be a replacement for Goyt Valley House before it is closed, but without such assurances, I will oppose the closure.

“Goyt Valley House has effectively been closed already. The consultation is a sham to fulfill the council’s legal obligations.

“DCC is not sending any new referrals to the home. To be blunt, I think the council thinks that by the time all the boxes have been ticked, there will be fewer residents to re-home.

“At the moment, there are not sufficient places in the High Peak, either in the public or private sector.

“The reason I was given for the closure to new residents was electrical wiring issues, but Goyt Valley House has been recently rewired.

“The tactics are clear. Close the facility to new referrals, and then say it is underutilised.

“The reprieve for the homes, immediately before the county council elections, followed by this U-turn immediately after the election is so cynical. The council is treating voters with contempt.”

Cllr Joan Dixon, leader of the council’s opposition Labour group, says: “This is just another broken promise from the Conservatives.  In their manifesto they talked about building a £30m Care Programme to provide new modern care homes and care at home packages for the county’s older people.

“At no point did they say they were intending to shut homes.

“The consultation in 2020 caused a lot of upset and distress for the residents in these homes, their relatives and their staff.

“It was quite clear that these are facilities in the heart of their communities and they are valued by local residents. It has become clear that an alternative in the community could be as far as 10 miles away. This is not what people were led to believe.  They now face further upset and uncertainty.

“All of Derbyshire’s care home buildings have been found to be safe after maintenance works were finally completed on them last year following the Conservative administration halting necessary repairs in 2017.

“Moreover, the costs proposed in the previous consultation were found to be vastly inflated, and much of the work was not required.

“With so many private care homes under pressure of closure, and costs escalating out of control, it seems reckless to close almost a third of the council’s own care homes without a proper assessment of the impact of the pandemic on both demand and market provision.

“The Labour Group calls on the council to run these homes as they should be, allowing in residents who desperately need the places, which are far more cost effective than the private sector, until the full impact of the pandemic has been felt on the private care home sector after additional government support grants end in the next financial year.

“The Labour Group knows how important it is to have residential care places available in every community where top-up fees are not required, as they are across the private sector.  These care homes are vital for families to be able to afford good quality residential care for their loved ones when it is needed, and we will fight for them.”

The affected homes are:

  1. Ladycross House, Sandiacre

  2. Beechcroft, West Hallam

  3. East Clune, Clowne

  4. Holmlea, Tibshelf

  5. The Spinney, Brimington

  6. Goyt Valley House, New Mills

  7. Gernon Manor, Bakewell

The council says the homes require £27 million in repairs and would still not be up to modern standards after those upgrades.

The council has now proposed three core options for the seven homes:

  1. Close the homes for up to 40 weeks, spending £27 million on repairs, with a “pressing need” to do so by September 2022

  2. Close the homes and move residents to other “local, suitable alternative provision”

  3. Close the homes and move residents to “any available suitable alternative provision”

The public is set to be asked to contribute to a 12-week consultation from November 22 until February 14 on the proposed options for the homes, after which the council will make a decision.

A report on the consultation results would then be discussed by the council cabinet on April 7.

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