PROTESTORS against a series of potential care home closures in Leeds stormed a Leeds City Council cabinet meeting today, causing it to be briefly abandoned.
Emotions ran high both before and during the meeting of the authority’s executive board, which rubber-stamped a consultation on the futures of three older people’s care homes and four day centres in Leeds.
Residential homes Middlecross in Armley, Siegen Manor in Morley and The Green in Seacroft - which all have attached day centres - could close as cash-strapped council bosses bid to save £2m in the wake of swingeing Government budget cuts.
The trio of homes currently house 61 residents who council bosses promise will all be found alternative accommodation.
A protest before the meeting at Leeds Civic Hall earlier today (Wednesday) featured many care workers. Up to 169 staff could lose their current jobs, although many could move over into new roles or be offered early retirement.
Also facing closure are Springfield day centre in Beeston, Radcliffe Lane in Pudsey and two specialist centres for older people from ethnic minority communities - the Apna centre in Woodhouse and Frederick Hurdle, Chapeltown.
During the meeting, there were continuous shouts from the packed public gallery, with one man asking the panel: “Do any of you have parents in care homes?”
After a string of disruptions, panel chair and deputy leader of the council Lucinda Yeadon abandoned proceedings while calm was restored.
After it resumed, Coun Yeadon said it was obvious from the public presence and reaction that this was a “sensitive subject” and stressed “incredibly difficult” decisions were being taken.
“We are talking about people’s loved ones and we recognise that,” she said,
“We want to be able to find the best way through this.”
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, executive board member for adult social care, said “difficult budgeting decisions” had to be made, but added: “We would like to reassure people that no one will be losing a place.
“But if we were not putting these proposals forward, we would have to find the savings elsewhere.”
Tom Riordan, chief executive of the council, said the authority was “very committed” to continued dialogue with both trade unions and the families of residents affected by any closures.
However one woman shouted back: “It’s a disgrace. The council are supposed to look after the citizens of Leeds.”
The raft of possible closures is part of the second phase of a wide ranging overhaul of Leeds’s adult care services which started in September 2013 with the aim of slashing £4m from the city’s annual adult care bill.
Council bosses say a need to update outdated and under-used facilities, as well as the continuing impact of wide-ranging Government funding cuts, necessitates the admittedly “gloomy” and “unfortunate” decision.