Councillors urged to 'save our homes' as talks resume

Darlington and Stockton Times: Protesters outside of County Hall Protesters outside of County Hall

DOZENS of angry workers and relatives staged a noisy protest against council care home closures this morning (Wednesday, December 4).

Care workers from the Unison and GMB unions joined people with loved ones in five closure-threatened homes and other sympathisers for an early morning rally on the steps of Durham’s County Hall.

Carrying placards and chanting, the 60-strong crowd delivered an uncompromising message to Durham county councillors arriving for a full council meeting: “Save Our Homes.”

The North-East’s biggest council is consulting on the future of five homes: Cheveley House, Belmont; Feryemount, Ferryhill; Mendip House, Chester-le-Street; Grampian House, Peterlee; and Newtown House, Stanhope.

They are home to 49 permanent residents, there are three options on the table: repair, privatisation and closure; and consultation continues into the new year.

Labour leaders at the cash-strapped authority say they have to review all services, as they are facing cuts of more than £200m by 2017.

But Clement O’Donovan, of Frosterley, who was part of today’s protest, said: “I think Durham County Council is taking the wrong approach.

“I believe in the basic human rights and the dignity of the residents.

“It would be criminal if the knowledge, expertise and care these workers provide was to be taken away in the name of saving a few pounds which they could find in other ways.”

Terry Scarr, senior organiser for the GMB union, said the council had agreed to talk to its officials about the homes for the first time in more than a month this Friday (December 6).

“We realise the position the authority is in but we’ve got to try to maintain our homes,” he said.

Howard Pink, Unison’s regional organiser, said it would be keeping up the pressure, adding: “We know that some councillors are opposed to the county council ending all direct provision of care homes.”

The consultation runs until January 19. To comment, visit durham.gov.uk, call 03000-265-680, email residentialcarehomesconsultation@durham.gov.uk or write to: Residential Care Consultation, Room 2/108-111, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UG.

Supporters of Newtown House plan to create a ring of support by holding hands to encircle the facility on Sunday at 2pm.

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