STAFF and relatives of residents at the Graceland nursing home in Guisborough are stepping up their fight to save it from closure.

They have formed an action committee and will lead a protest march through the town tomorrow morning. A petition is also being circulated.

Barry Parvin, the proprietor of Graceland, announced at the end of last month that he intended to close the home, blaming the situation on staffing problems.

He said Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, which is responsible for 14 of the residents, and Langbaurgh Primary Care Trust which looks after the remaining 37, were not paying enough money for him to pay his staff above the minimum wage.

Coun Valerie Halton, council member for social services, said this week that the home had received a 24pc increase in payments over the last two years and claimed it was making a profit of £52,000 a year.

She said: "We believe Mr Parvin wants to sell the home to developers. We think he is going to close the home, come what may.

"We are very concerned about the 51 residents. It is a matter of urgency to get them all re-homed."

If Graceland closes, it would leave the residents, most of whom suffer from dementia, without homes and about 60 staff without jobs.

It would also add to a beds crisis in Redcar and Cleveland, with the imminent closure of Nessfield care home, Nunthorpe, and the recent closure of Bupa's St David's care home, Redcar.

Ann Langley, whose 84-year-old mother, Maria "Mary" Kelly, lives at Graceland, is co-ordinating the campaign to keep the home open.

She said: "We are outraged. It really is a horrible thing that we are having to go through at the moment.

"We are not prepared to even think about Graceland closing down."

She said relatives were worried about the lack of alternative homes in the area and feared their loved ones would be relocated further away.

Mrs Langley defended Mr Parvin, claiming Redcar and Cleveland Council had known about the problems at the home for some time.

She said: "I'm just fed up with Barry Parvin being slagged off by the council. They have chosen to say they were not aware of the situation, but we have proof that they were."

She also praised the staff at the home for their loyalty and dedication to the residents.

She said: "It's not just about the relatives, it's also about the staff who look upon them as their extended family. They are paid the minimum basic wage of £4.50 an hour and should be rewarded for all their hard work and commitment.

"One member of staff has been there since it opened 17 years ago and she has vowed to fight to keep it open."

She added: "We have a lot of support for the march and are hoping for a really good turnout."

The marchers are due to meet at the car park in Rectory Lane at 10am before making their way up Chaloner Street to the market cross, where one of the committee members will deliver a speech