Spend Leeds 2023 cultural events money on keeping care homes open instead, say opposition councillors

Leeds City Council has been accused of placing finances before vulnerable people, following the decision to close two of the district’s care homes.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 4:45 am

A request was made by opposition Conservative members of Leeds City Council asking decision-makers to look again at plans to close Richmond House and Home Lea House.

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.

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Richmond House, Farsley.
Richmond House, Farsley.

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), called on 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.”

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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.