A CALL to remove the option of closing a care home was defeated at Sandwell Council, despite a large number of angry residents in attendance who cried out that the decision was ‘rubbish’.

At a full council meeting on October 12, councillors debated whether to reconsider and remove the option of closure for Walker Grange care home, in Tipton.

An online petition opposing its closure has more than 1,000 signatures.

A 12-week consultation period for tenants of Walker Grange and a 30-day consultation period for staff is currently taking place.

Family members and residents of Walker Grange attended the full council meeting in the public gallery, with their outcries of “rubbish” and “this care home is fine” shouted to councillors sat in the chamber below.

Cllr Archer Williams, Conservative councillor for Princes End, who led the motion, said the care home in his ward is “precious” to residents who cannot afford to go private, and it would be “unthinkable” to close it.

Dudley News: Cllr Archer WilliamsCllr Archer Williams

He said: “This care home has been rated good by the Care Quality Commission in January 2020. The inspection discovered that Walker Grange is an effective, caring, responsive, well led, and a safe provider.

“It is not realistic for a care home to receive such a report just last year, and then to be referred to as becoming dated and unsuitable for service the next year.

“One resident told me they would rather sleep on the streets, than leave Walker Grange and be relocated to Willow Gardens in Rowley Regis. Another … told me she would rather commit suicide than leave the care home.

“The residents and families are currently living with unnecessary stress and anxiety due to this consultation. This should not be a financially based decision for the council. It is not worth the immense suffering and pain that will come as a result.

“I urge this council to do the right thing on behalf of Walker Grange residents and remove the second option as a potential outcome and eliminate the possibility of Walker Grange closing."

At a cabinet meeting, dated September 1, Sandwell Council noted the care home was “proving unsuitable to meet the care and support” of individuals, with rooms not big enough and bathrooms not suitable for residents.

It argued any modernisation of the buildings would require temporary closure of the care home, creating additional financial pressures for the authority, with people having to move into temporary care homes, such as Willow Gardens in Rowley Regis, and potential job losses.

In the report, Sandwell Council notes the value of the site on which Walker Grange care home is built on is in the region of £500,000.

Accusations of moving residents to Willows Gardens, a care home in Rowley Regis, and close to Rowley Regis crematorium, were labelled as “inconsiderate” by Conservative councillors.

Some councillors were split on the decision.

Cllr Stephen Jones, Labour councillor for Princes End, said: “These are our elderly residents.

“All we’re asking to do is to remove the threat of eviction to give people the dignity and the peace of mind and remove this anxiety.

“This is not a Labour or Conservative matter. This is a decision of humanity.”

Cllr Joanna Hadley, independent councillor for Great Bridge, said: “To be quite honest with you, we should listen to the residents who have been at the home for over 20 years.

“To move them somewhere else, as a caring authority, as we keep on about, if this council can spend thousands up thousands, possibly millions of pounds on legal fees, I’m sure it can find the money to repair Walker Grange.”

But Cllr Suzanne Hartwell, Labour councillor for Oldbury, and cabinet member for adults, social care and health said the consultation was needed.

Dudley News: Cllr Suzanne HartwellCllr Suzanne Hartwell

“Our care homes are a lifeline. I have devoted my career to caring for the most vulnerable in our community.

“I want to know how much work the building needs or wants. I want to know what the residents want and what their families need. We don’t have all those answers yet, so we can’t make a decision.

“Let me be clear, we are not aware of any serious issues with Walker Grange, and people do not need to worry. But it is our job as a council to make sure we spot the problems before they happen.

“I want the consultation to go ahead. I want to listen to every single resident, and every single family member. I also want to wait until the survey reports come back."

West Bromwich West MP Shaun Bailey, who attended the public gallery, said: “The leader of this council needs to take a political decision. It was his administration that underspent the adult social care budget by £2.5m, and yet he is turfing people out of their homes."

The amended motion to keep the option of closure for Walker Grange care home was carried.