Monday, December 6, 2021
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Spend Leeds 2023 culture money on keeping Farsley care home open instead, say opposition councillors

Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter

Tory councillors have asked Leeds City Council to look again at plans to close two care homes in Leeds – including one in Farsley.

Discussions will now take place at a meeting later this week, where councillors will decide whether to investigate if more could have been done to save money without closing down the homes.

Plans to shut down Home Lea House Long Stay Residential Care Home in Rothwell; and Richmond House Short Stay Residential Care Home in Farsley, were approved at Leeds City Council’s decision-making executive board last month.

Decision: Leeds City Council

A report by Leeds City Council officers claimed the closures would contribute annual savings of £1.531m to the council’s £118.8m budget gap for 2021/22. It added the decision would allow the council to meet its legal requirement to be financially stable, and insisted residents will be looked after.

But the call-in request, submitted by Coun Caroline Anderson (Con, Adel and Wharfedale), has asked the authority to spend its money keeping the care homes open and instead make further cuts to its Leeds 2023 culture fund. It read:

“Whilst accepting the financial challenge faced by the council, in the opinion of the signatories, the decision to close Richmond House and Home Lea House care homes has placed budgetary concerns above the personal impact on vulnerable older people using these facilities and will have a disproportionate impact on the local care offer.”

It dismissed claims by council officers that, had the homes not closed, the council’s adult social care department would have had to find savings elsewhere, adding:

“It is arguably a choice to decide that Adult Social Care should contribute a certain proportion of savings to the council’s overall budget strategy, and the council could have instead chosen to find additional savings from other departments’ budgets, such as the Leeds 2023 culture monies.”

Leeds 2023 is set to be an “extraordinary, year-long programme of creative experiences” designed to increase footfall and participation in cultural events among the people of Leeds, according to the council. As part of the council’s finances for the coming year, it is set to slash £1.3m from its Leeds 2023 budget, but this only represents a 15 per cent cut.

The request added that the results of the consultation into the plans were “stark”, with 141 separate submissions against the plans, as well as three petitions.

Coun Anderson’s submission continued:

“The council appears not to have varied its proposals at all as a result of this feedback, which raises questions over how much weight is attached to the consultation process in practice.”

It asked that scrutiny looked further into the matter to “consider if the right balance has been struck between achieving financial savings and the inevitable disruptive impact on users of these care homes if they close.”

The request was co-signed by fellow Conservative councillors Amanda Carter (Calverley & Farsley), Simon Seary, Trish Smith and Dawn Seary (all Pudsey).

Home Lea House is a 29-bed long-stay residential home in Rothwell – it currently houses 18 residents and has a gross annual budget of £789,000. The council’s other care home in Rothwell is Dolphin Manor, which a recent council report claimed was under occupied.

Richmond House is a 20-bed residential service in Farsley. It offers short-term care and support to people who require convalescence following a hospital
admission. Council officers said average occupancy since 2018/19 is 55 per cent and its gross budget is £742,000.

As things stand, Richmond House expected to be decommissioned by November 2021, and Home Lea House by February 2022.

Members of the Adults and Health Scrutiny Board will hear evidence at their meeting on Friday, July 9 and decide the next steps. This could either be to “release the decision for implementation” – effectively dismissing the call-in; or to recommend to the council that the decision be reconsidered.

The Labour-led authority maintains it is facing a number of financial challenges due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and more than a decade of Government austerity. They say the council has lost £2 billion in cumulative funding since 2010.

WLD cutswatch

West Leeds Dispatch‘s Cutswatch series has been following the proposed cuts over the past few months here.

Follow WLD’s coverage of the Richmond House closure here.

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