THE leader of the North-East’s biggest council has insisted no decisions have yet been taken on the future of five closure-threatened care homes.
Durham County Council’s Labour leader Simon Henig was speaking as a 12-week consultation on the fate of the state-run facilities ended yesterday (Sunday, January 19).
The three-month period has been marked by repeated claims of a “done deal” to close all five.
But despite the lucrative savings from closing or privatising the homes having been included in this year’s budget calculations, Councillor Henig said: “It’s very important to emphasise no decisions have yet been made.
“It will come back to cabinet and we need to look at all the responses from the consultation. We haven’t seen them all yet.”
A council spokeswoman said no date for final decisions had been set, but it is expected to be in the next few months.
The homes at risk are Cheveley House, Belmont; Feryemount, Ferryhill; Grampian House, Peterlee; Mendip House, Chester-le-Street; and Newtown House, Stanhope.
They are home to nearly 50 permanent residents and three options are being considered: repair, privatisation and closure.
Four years ago, when the council closed seven other homes, it said long-term residential care would continue at Newtown House, Grampian House would offer intermediate care and a short-term care role would be explored for the remaining three.
However, facing cuts of £242m between 2010 and 2017, Labour bosses say times have changed and all services must be reviewed.
Supporters have fought a particularly strong campaign to save Newtown House, including staging a protest which saw Methodist minister Sue Peat chain herself to the gates and nearly 100 people form a “circle of love and protection” around the facility.
Coun Henig said he had received a “large number” of letters from Weardale, but added: “We need to see all the responses.”
The homes employ about 170 staff, are costly to run, need £3m of repairs and their closure would save more than £1m. Cheveley House is already empty, due to a leaking roof and structural problems.