IT was the letter dozens of families in County Durham had been dreading: telling them exactly when their elderly relatives must move from their care homes.

Durham County Council’s letters arrived yesterday morning on the doormats of many families who have loved ones living in seven closurelisted homes.

The cash-strapped council agreed to close Manor House, in Annfield Plain; Glendale House, in Blackhall; Lynwood House, in Lanchester; Hackworth House, in Shildon; Stanfield House, in Stanley; Shafto House, in Newton Aycliffe; and East Green, in West Auckland, last month.

They are home to more than 100 elderly people, but keeping them open and bringing them up to modern standards could have cost £35m.

Residents will be moved out of East Green and Manor House from October; Hackworth House and Lynwood House from December; and Shafto House, Stanfield House and Glendale House from March. Assessments will begin two months beforehand.

George Dutch, whose 93- year-old mother, Margaret, lives in Shafto House, said: “It’s not unexpected, but we’ve been dreading it.”

Margaret Newlove, whose 86-year-old mother, Joan Morgan, lives in Glendale House, said: “I had feared because of the fight we put up we would be one of the first to close. But we will still fight on.”

Meanwhile, many of the 230 care home staff whose jobs are at risk have received formal notification of a 90-day consultation period on their future.

Lesley Jeavons, Durham County Council’s head of adult services, said the needs and wellbeing of residents and their families would be at the heart of the relocation process.

“All timescales will be flexible and moves will be subject to the availability of suitable alternative care home places,”

she said.

“Assessments will involve social workers and health professionals who are all highly experienced in moving people between care providers and best practice will be followed throughout the process.

“We will also be encouraging residents’ families to work with us during the coming months in order to ensure that we can address any concerns or issues they may have.”

No exact dates for home closures have been announced.

Durham County Council has to make £100m of savings over the next four years.