TWO Stroud care homes will be shut as planned, after an attempt to stop the closures failed.

A cross-party group of opposition councillors on Gloucestershire County Council had tried to prevent the closure of Wyatt House and Southfield care homes by asking for a 'call in' of the Conservative cabinet's decision to shut them.

But, at a special meeting of the Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee today, their request for the call in – which would have seen the cabinet's closure decision reviewed and potentially overturned – was voted down six to three.

The six Conservative councillors on the committee rejected the appeal for a call in, while the three members from other parties voted in favour.

This means that the two care homes will close before Christmas, as planned – a decision which has been opposed by residents and their relatives.

Opposition councillors argued that, because the council did not consult with residents on the planned closure before the cabinet made its verdict, that decision was 'not constitutional'.

But the Conservatives said it was not practical to consult with all residents prior to that decision, and that consulting with them now on how the closure will impact them and where they will move, is more important.

After the scrutiny meeting, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, leader of the county council Liberal Democrat group, said: “It is utterly appalling that Conservative councillors have en masse sided with the administration. This call-in was not about the decision per se, but the process followed by the cabinet member (Cllr Roger Wilson). Today we showed he acted contrary to the constitution in his failure to consult with residents on the decision, rather than this farce of a consultation on the impacts.

Cllr Lesley Williams, leader of the Labour group, added: “It is abundantly clear that the cabinet member failed to consider all of the alternatives to closure, and as a result has acted unconstitutionally."

Cllr Rachel Smith, Leader of the Green Party group, added: “The decision by Conservatives today puts an end to the claim that scrutiny is non-political and sets a very dangerous precedent moving forward.”

Explaining why the council had decided to close the care homes, Cllr Wilson said: “We have acted on the advice of the independent charity that runs these homes, that they aren’t fit for purpose.

“We make no apologies for wanting high standards of care for older people in our county – even when that leads to hard choices in the short term.”

While country council leader Cllr Mark Hawthorne (Conservative) said: “We certainly have listened carefully to the views of residents and their relatives– but a lengthy formal consultation process would increase uncertainty and that wouldn’t be right. That was something which the council looked at very carefully, having taken expert professional advice."

Cllr Phil Awford (Con), County Councillor for Highnam, sat on the committee and added, “The coordinated release of party political statements from Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat councillors makes it clear who is playing politics with scrutiny.  Opposition councillors refused to answer my question about why they challenged the decision, but did not challenge exactly the same process in Gloucester and the Forest of Dean. The effect of their politics was made clear in the meeting – because of their party politics help and support for residents at these homes has been delayed.  These councillors should think carefully about the real effects of their political showboating.”

The chair of the scrutiny committee, Cllr Stephen Hirst (Con), added: “We carefully reviewed the process that had been undertaken and after much discussion, in which all committee members had the opportunity to contribute, committee members voted on whether they supported or opposed the grounds for call in. Three councillors supported the grounds for call in, whilst six councillors opposed. This means that the decision made at the Cabinet meeting on 24 July is upheld and the care homes will close.”

The two care homes are managed by The Orders of St John Care Trust, who run the care home as part of the Gloucestershire Care Partnership.

The 56 residents will be placed in alternative facilities and employees offered similar roles elsewhere.

There is a 10 to 15 per cent vacancy level across care homes in the Stroud district, the council said, adding that Southfield consistently has more than 15 per cent of its rooms empty with forecasts indicating further decline in the years ahead.

Wyatt House, which specialises in dementia nursing care for the elderly, was built nearly 50 years ago, and the authority said it cannot offer the more modern and appropriate specialist care it can purchase from other homes in the area.