A COUNCIL’S recommendation to close its last five residential care homes could cost lives, a councillor has claimed.

Durham County Council’s cabinet will meet next week to discuss the future of Newtown House, Stanhope; Cheveley House, Belmont; Feryemount, Ferryhill; Grampian House, Peterlee and Mendip House, Chester-le-Street.

All five homes, which currently house 40 elderly residents with 31 day users and 172 staff, are being recommended for closure by Rachael Shimmin, corporate director of children and adult services, in a bid to cut costs.

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The council say in-house care costs £918 per week compared to £474 it would pay for residents to be looked after in a private home.

It also estimates it must spend almost £4.2m over the next ten years to bring the five homes up to an acceptable standard - although inspections by the Care Quality Commission in 2013 found they met the required level.

The council argued residency numbers at each home has dropped over the last few years and space is available in private facilities.

Ms Shimmin also said there had been no suitable business plans put forward to take over the care homes.

Almost 700 people responded to a public consultation on the proposals with around 80 per cent opposed to closure.

Concerns were raised over the trauma of making the elderly residents move, the extra distances families would have to travel to visit their loved ones and the loss of employment.

Weardale county councillor John Shuttleworth said: “In the grand scheme of things the savings are miniscule and yet it will kill some of these people.

“People took the time to write in and express their views but it’s the same old story, they have been totally ignored, this so-called consultation has been an utter sham.”

Councillor Shuttleworth also criticised the council’s figures about a drop in the numbers of residents in each home saying: “They have been keeping the numbers low to justify their argument for closure. It’s morally wrong.”

In her report to cabinet, Ms Shimmin said: “It is acknowledged that there is some risk in moving frail elderly people which can never be completely eliminated.

“Research suggests that the risks can be minimised and managed.”

Morris Nicholls, cabinet member for adult services, said: “We know that this is a very emotive issue.

“We have carefully considered all of the feedback we received and appreciate all of the issues raised. However, at a time of significant financial constraints we also need to balance these concerns with the need to ensure that our services offer value for money and are fit for purpose.”

A public question and answer session begins at 9.30am before the Cabinet meets at 10am on Wednesday, April 16, at Crook Civic Centre.