A council-run care home and a day service for elderly and disabled residents are to close their doors as a result of a decision by East Sussex County Council leaders.
Members of the Conservative-controlled cabinet agreed to cease services at both Warwick House in Seaford and the Firwood House care home in Eastbourne at a meeting on Tuesday (June 26).
As a result of the closures another Eastbourne care facility – Milton Grange – is to be reorganised, integrating the day services from Warwick House and the 19 intermediate care beds lost from Firwood House.
The move comes as part of a broad range of cost-cutting measures taking £9.6m from the council’s Adult Social Care budget.
Carl Maynard, the council’s lead member for adult social care and health, said: “The reality is what is in front of cabinet today will save this council in excess of £1m. But we have listened and worked in a team to achieve what is in front of cabinet today.
“I believe this is the right way forward. To reconfigure Milton Grange in the way that is being proposed will enable us to utilise that increased capacity.”
The closure of Warwick House was criticised by Liberal Democrat councillor for Seaford South Carolyn Lambert.
Cllr Lambert said: “Warwick House, as we know, is a very recent and major capital investment by the council. Some £6.5m and only around four years ago.
“That was when we were already in a period of austerity, so I do find it astonishing, in light of the cuts we are now being asked to make, that we are now in this position.
“I think it is helpful to remind people of the context of Seaford. We are frankly awash with specialist accommodation for older people.
“GPs actually objected to the last planning application, because they were deeply concerned about the impact of older people with persistent, chronic and complex health needs coming into the town. They felt they didn’t have sufficient resources to deal with that.
“So I find it really difficult to accept that there is not the demand out there for [Warwick House].”
During the meeting cabinet members heard how more than 830 comments had been submitted as part of its consultation on the future of the three services.
The council also received a petition titled ‘Save Milton Grange and Firwood House’, which gathered 10,080 signatures in a campaign led by Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne Stephen Lloyd.
At the meeting a letter was read on behalf of Mr Lloyd in which he called on Eastbourne’s Conservative county councillors to resign if the closure of Firwood House was approved.
In his letter Mr Lloyd said: “I appreciate the county council is experiencing funding challenges from swingeing cuts from central government.
“But I believe that something as important as the wellbeing and rehabilitative needs of Eastbourne residents and beyond, their vital health requirements, must put before budget cuts.
“I am bound to say that the time has come for you, as leading figures of the Conservative-controlled county council, to persuade your Tory colleagues in central government to provide the necessary funds, which will ensure our town can keep Firwood House open.
“If you are unable to do this, it is with some regret that I am formally asking as Eastbourne and Willingdon MP that the county councillors consider their positions.”
Following the meeting, three Conservative councillors representing Eastbourne – Barry Taylor, Colin Belsey and deputy council leader David Elkin – wrote an open letter to Mr Lloyd criticising his resignation call.
The letter read: “The county council has been positive and innovative in how it has dealt with reduced government grants.
“This means more older people will be cared for in their own homes – something countless studies show they want.
“In doing this, the council can spend less money. This is good news for the taxpayer and for those in need of social care.
“In addition, we are expanding Milton Grange with the ambition it becomes one of the best dementia respite care centres in the country.
The three councillors also called for Mr Lloyd’s resignation in the letter, claiming he had voted to reduced local government grants in the House of Commons.
They said: “You were instrumental in starting the cuts the county council is now dealing with years later. Now, that’s ‘beyond parody’ Stephen.
“We’d rather make difficult decisions in an attempt to help people in Eastbourne and beyond.”