COUNCILLORS have raised “serious concerns” about proposals to potentially close four care homes in Gloucestershire after a six-week consultation over their future was approved.

Gloucestershire County Council leaders agreed to a consultation on the council-owned homes, which includes Westbury Court in Westbury-on-Severn, at a meeting last Wednesday (March 30), but opposition councillors fear their closure is already a done deal.

The council says the proposals come after a period of engagement with Gloucestershire’s independent care market at the end of last year.

It says loss of resident income from both private and public funding has threatened the financial stability of the homes, which are run by the Orders of St John.

But opposition councillors have described the plans as ‘distressing’ and ‘disappointing’ and are calling on the Conservative administration to prove they are acting on feedback received in the consultation when they make their final decision.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm and Wotton) said: “I have serious concerns about Cabinet’s decision to proceed with a consultation on closing these four care homes.

“We already know that this has caused a lot of distress for residents and family members of those residing in these centres of care and the cabinet report shared today will have done little to clarify matters, with a lack of analysis and little information to show why these homes are identified for closure.

“There is a high degree of concern that consultations on such matters are done deals, with the County Council already set on closing all four of these homes. 

“In order to prove that they are truly listening, we must see a comprehensive report on the conclusion of this consultation and the administration must prove that they are acting on the feedback received.”

Councillor John Bloxsom (L, Rodborough) said of the proposals: “This was sprung on shocked residents and families at meetings held last Tuesday – at the same time as the proposal was published.

“The meeting was called at a couple of days’ notice and with people who are bed bound and those suffering from dementia invited to attend.

“No information was given to families and residents about the meeting before they got there.

“These are reported to have been emotionally charged meetings. Families were very angry and disappointed that these homes could be closing.

“Many have made great efforts to find suitable, friendly homes with caring staff who can meet their needs and provide a friendly, compassionate family atmosphere.

“This is a terrible way to treat vulnerable people and their families who are deeply concerned about what will happen next.

“Residents and their families deserve better than this. We will look for homes to be sympathetically upgraded and improved to meet modern standards and don’t want to see them broken up and sold off as development land.

“We hope that the Conservative administration at Shire Hall will think again.”

The council says demand for standard residential care home places has fallen consistently in the past five years, and that more people are wanting to be cared for at home.

Council leader Mark Hawthorne (C, Quedgeley) said: “Cabinet has agreed to the recommendations put before it today and this means we will now consult with those affected by these proposals.

“We understand that residents in the homes and their families may feel concerned about the proposals being considered and that is why they will be given the opportunity to have their say before a final decision is taken by cabinet in June.

“There will of course always be a need for residential care for those who need long term care and the changes that are being proposed will help ensure they receive this in facilities that are flexible enough to adapt as needs of an individual change and develop.”

The findings of the consultation will be put before the cabinet in June, when they will be asked to take a final decision on the closures.