Rethink urged on council plans to axe facilities for city’s elderly

CALLS were made last night for a rethink of proposals that could see nine old people’s homes and day centres in Leeds shut as part of a major council shake-up to save money in the light of spending cuts.

Officers at Leeds City Council have now drawn up a list of six homes and three day centres they propose should close and talks are under way. The issue has already caused a great deal of anger, with a public meeting on the issue planned later this month for those affected by the proposed axing of one home in Otley.

Last night, however, campaigners were warned the council was still grappling with major financial challenges caused by public service cuts and doing nothing was not an option.

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The Liberal Democrat group leader on the council, Stewart Golton, last night called for the authority to suspend its plans. Today the council will debate a motion submitted by the Morley Borough Independent leader, Robert Finnegan, calling for the plans to be suspended in the light of the Southern Cross care homes financial crisis.

Coun Golton, who is seconding the motion, said: “The Labour administration’s proposals to close older persons’ residential homes in areas like Morley, Rothwell and Otley seem to totally ignore the role these homes play in their neighbourhoods.

“As our older residents begin to need care they still want to stay in their local area.

“Our investigations have shown that there are not enough places in the private sector to allow older people to remain living in their local communities, even if they were happy to move a short distance.”

One of the homes threatened with closure is Spring Gardens, at Otley, and so far 1,586 people have signed a petition opposing the move.

Elaine Stevens, who has a relative at the home said: “Over half of those at Spring Gardens have lived in Otley all their lives and I think it is quite cruel when they are in their 80s and 90s to take them out of the town where they have lived all their lives.”

She has helped organise a public meeting at the Black Horse Hotel, in Otley, on July 21, at 7.30pm. Everyone is welcome.

Other homes identified for possible closure are Grange Court, Garforth; Kirkland House, Yeadon; Dolphin Manor, Rothwell; Knowle Manor, Morley and Westholme Residential Home, Wortley.

The day centres at risk are Firthfields, Garforth; Lincolnfields in Burmantofts, and Rose Farm, Rothwell.

Council chiefs say demand for its homes, many of which need modernisation, is falling, as is attendance at day centres.

They stress that no decisions will be taken before a final report is discussed by senior councillors at the council in September.

The council’s executive board member with responsibility for adult health and social care, Coun Lucinda Yeadon, said: “The unprecedented, front-loaded Government cuts to council budgets give us no option but to urgently consider the future of our older people’s care homes.

“This combined with the massive demographic pressures on social care budgets, as highlighted by the Dilnot Review, mean doing nothing is not an option.

“We are currently in a consultation period and no decisions have been made. This is clearly an anxious time for care home residents and their families, so we are trying to conduct that consultation with them in the most sensitive way possible.”

Coun Yeadon added yesterday: “That anxiety isn’t helped by politically motivated comments from Liberal Democrat councillors whose time could be spent lobbying their Government colleagues in London for a fairer council grant settlement for northern cities like Leeds.”