Suffolk: Delay over fate of care homes
NO final decision will be taken on the fate of Suffolk’s 16 county council-owned care homes until next February at the earliest – but the authority has ruled out the possibility of widespread closures.
The county is set to ask business consultancy KPMG to look for alternative operators to take over its care homes and is set to make a final decision on their fate in nine months’ time.
When the first proposals were published last October the county outlined three possible options: close all its care homes, sell them all off, or close six and sell off the rest.
After a consultation exercise which included visits to all 16 homes and an initial report from KPMG, the council has now narrowed these down to two options – look to transfer its homes to new operators or close them.
And cabinet member with responsibility for adult and community services Colin Noble said the idea of closing all the homes would be rejected. He said the homes would be marketed over the next nine months and their future would be decided in February.
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Mr Noble has said it was not possible to say at this stage what the final decision would be – but other council insiders have indicated that any homes that cannot be transferred to other operators are likely to be given extra support, and may remain part of the county organisation.
He said the six had never been earmarked for closure.
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He added: “We have had 28 unsolicited expressions of interest before we have even got to this stage so we are very keen to go and listen to them, talk to them, work with them to see what they come up with and then once we’ve gone through that process we look at what might or might not be left.
“And then we will look at what we do.”
He said he did not want to “jump the gun” about what might be brought back to the cabinet in February next year.
Opposition leader Kathy Pollard said she welcomed the council’s apparent about-turn on care homes, especially those which served rural areas. She said: “Many of those which were seen to be at risk were highly valued by the communities they service and the indications are that they are now likely to be reprieved.”
It was still not completely clear what would happen to the homes – but Mrs Pollard said talks she had had with senior administration councillors suggested that the threat was not now as great as it had been in the past.
The news was also welcomed by Bury St Edmunds independent councillor Trevor Beckwith.
He said: “As far as I’m concerned if a rethink is going on, great. I’m particularly concerned about Davers Court. I’m still not sure what the proposals are going to come forward with.”
He added: “It seems disposing of them as a going concern was an unlikely option.
“That’s what’s been coming out of the county council all the way through.
“The immediate threat may have gone, but I cannot see much here that gives me too much confidence.”