Doncaster Council has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on improving care homes it plans to close.
Following a freedom of information request, the Free Press can exclusively reveal that Doncaster Council, which has to make £109 million in cuts, spent a total of £317,224.13 on the seven care homes owned and run by the local authority.
The money was spent between April 2011 and April 2014, with the largest proportion of the funds, £122,237.75, being spent over the course of the last financial year.
Doncaster council cabinet members approved plans to implement a phased closure of all seven council-run care homes in June, but the closure was initially proposed in October last year.
The local authority has just completed a three month review period, during which time it has attempted to find ‘alternate providers’ to take over and run the homes, but it is not yet known whether this has been successful.
Thorne councillor Martin Williams has criticised the amount spent by the council on improvements to the homes.
He said: “If they’re going to spend that much money on maintaining the homes, they may as well keep them open.
They never should have voted to close them,” added the Community Group Party member.
To me it seems like they took the decision to do them so they could make them more appealing to independent providers.
Why didn’t they make these improvements years before? The best thing for them to do now would be to get an independent provider to take them over and keep the same staff on so the residents can have continuity of care.”
Doncaster council is set to make a total of £109 million of cuts between 2014 and 2017, and the local authority estimates it will be able to save £1.927 million through the phased closure of its in-house care homes.
It also cites the fact it does not consider the homes ‘fit to meet the future needs of an increasingly disabled group of older people’ and that they would require ‘significant investment’ as factors in their decision.
Members of the Caregate group have put up ‘overwhelming opposition’ to the closures. Caregate member, Peter Sumner, said he believes that the amount spent on maintaining the homes proves ‘they don’t know what they’re doing’. “All the way along they kept telling us that the care homes were not fit for purpose, but this just shows that isn’t the case”, said the 66-year-old. Peter, of Goodison Boulevard, Cantley, added: “These are solid buildings that are maintained well. It’s clearly about the political decision they’ve chosen to make, and not about the money or the state of the homes.”
According to Doncaster council, the £317,224 detailed in the freedom of information request relates to five homes having their kitchen ventilation updated, the addition of a conservatory and the replacement of a boiler.
Dave Hamilton, Director of Adults, Health and Wellbeing, said: “All of the works to ventilation systems and boilers were essential and had to be completed to comply with health and safety regulations. We have a duty to maintain the buildings to ensure quality of life for current residents. The conservatory at Rose House was paid for by a Government grant.”