FIVE council-run care homes will close after councillors heard it is too expensive to keep them going.

Members of Durham County Council's cabinet said it was a with heavy heart they decided to close Cheveley House in Belmont, Feryemount in Ferryhill, Grampian House in Peterlee, Mendip House in Chester-le-Street and Newtown House in Stanhope.

More than 20 members of the public attended the meeting in Crook this morning to voice their opposition to the closures, in particular of Newtown House, the only residential home in Weardale.

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Councillors were told it costs an extra £22,000 a year per resident to keep people in council-run homes as opposed to the authority paying for them to be placed in independent homes.

Deputy leader Coun Alan Napier said cuts imposed by the Government were to blame, with funding for services heavily reduced.

Weardale county councillor John Shuttleworth said Newtown House was not considered for closure in 2010, when seven homes were axed, because the council recognised it was the only provision for Weardale residents.

But Coun Napier said budget cuts, which means the council need to save £220m, are a key difference between now and four years ago.

Coun Shuttleworth also accused cabinet members of being puppets to the council's chief officers, a claim refuted by Lucy Hovvels, member for healthier and safer communities who said she had "lost several nights sleep" over the decision.

Dennis Southwell, chairman of Belmont Parish Council, said nobody has asked for Cheveley House to remain open, but he did make a plea for Newtown House.

He said: "I appreciate the council has major problems with funding but it has been proven Newtown House is fit for purpose, and it is only 25 people.

"The council has a duty of care to look after our residents."

Around 85 per cent of the more than 700 people who responded to a consultation on the plans were opposed to closure.

Several people asked questions of the cabinet, many asking why the views from the consultation were being disregarded.

Coun Hovvels said the public consultation was just one of several factors the cabinet had to take into account.

Weardale councillor Anita Savory said: "This will have a severe detrimental impact on these residents.

"How is this meeting our duty to care to the elderly when money is more important than human life?"

Protestor Clement O'Donovan urged the cabinet to reject the closure of Newtown House in particular, adding: "The moral and ethical test of a council is how it supports its communities and treats its vulnerable residents."

The cabinet unanimously agreed to closure of the five homes.

Leader Coun Simon Henig said the council was the last in the region to have its own in house care with others choosing to commission rather than provide care.

He said: "It is with great sadness the recommendations are outlined."

The cabinet was told the council will support residents with future moves and in certain cases will offer transport to help relatives visit their loved ones in their new homes.