Council plan to close two Southampton care homes

CARE chiefs are launching another bid to close two Southampton City Council care homes despite protests from angry residents and their families.

Tory council chiefs gave the go ahead to shut the 55-bed Whitehaven Lodge and 33- bed Birch Lawn homes six months ago.

However, the closures were put on hold in January after a solicitor hired by angry relatives of residents applied for a judicial review for the decision.

They claimed it was unlawful because it failed to consider the effect on residents’ health of moving them. Many thought they had a home for life.

The judicial review was “stayed” while the council reviewed the decision.

Care bosses have admitted they should have taken into account studies which showed a rise in deaths during closures elsewhere.

But they have now carried out an “audit” of residents’ needs to show a managed move will cause “no real or imminent risk to health or life”.

And, after getting a second costly legal opinion, they are now confident they can press ahead with closures and win a legal challenge.

Tory Cabinet members are now being asked to agree to the closures. Eighteen permanent residents remain at Birch Lawn care home in Sholing and 19 at Whitehaven in Millbrook.

But furious relatives of elderly people living at the two sites say the whole process has been a waste of public money by a council “hell bent” on closing them down – and have vowed to fight on.

Adult care boss Councillor Ivan White refused to say whether he will endorse the closures to be “fair to the residents and his Cabinet colleagues.”

“My original recommendation to close them was accepted and little has changed.”

He added: “Residents will have an opportunity to put their point of view to Cabinet.”

Cllr White also dismissed merging the homes. “You are still closing one home which will lead to disruption moving from one home to the other.

“It smacks of just wanting the council to run a care home. I don’t think state care is always necessarily the best.”

Despite a 5,000-name petition and pleas from residents, relatives and staff, Tory council leaders decided to close the homes in October. They claimed there was a falling demand for residential care in the city and the authority would save around £500,000 by buying cheaper care from the private sector. It could net £1.5m from the sale of the homes sites.

Itchen MP John Denham, who has campaigned against the controversial closure decision, said he was “disappointed” by the move.

“I’ll obviously want to read the report and try to understand why they have reached the conclusions they have, but I still believe the whole process has been flawed,” he said.

“My basic position has never been that there should not be change, but that what we’re getting instead be better than what we’ve got at the moment.

“I don’t think the council has passed that test.”

A decision will be made by the Cabinet on June 1.