Kirklees Council is pressing ahead with plans to transfer its two dementia care homes to the private sector.

The council had earmarked both Castle Grange at Newsome and Claremont House in Heckmondwike for closure but backed down in the face of fierce public opposition.

Families of residents in both homes fought an emotional campaign which pulled at the heartstrings as they begged the council to “find another way.”

The council has found another way and wants to re-visit a previous idea to transfer ownership of the homes. The council has attempted this in the past but couldn’t make it happen.

The council has said, however, that if it fails to transfer the homes to the private sector, it will continue to run them.

The council’s Cabinet proposed closure of both homes as it grappled with finding £47 million of savings to stave off bankruptcy and balance its budget for 2024-25. A statutory 12-week public consultation was held.

At a meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday March 12, councillors will be presented with the findings of the consultation and be asked to approve moves to “explore potential opportunities to transfer the homes to an independent sector provider.”

A report to Cabinet says: “During the consultation process, there was informal dialogue with providers who are interested in taking over the running of the homes as a going concern.

“The council has previously sought to transfer the homes into the independent sector but, for a number of reasons, this was not successful.

“The council will use the learning from this to inform the approach this time around. The council will continue to operate the homes during this time and thereafter if it is not successful in transferring them.”

The report reveals there were 399 responses to the public consultation with almost 80% saying they “strongly disagreed” with the closures.

Families set up a campaign group which threatened to seek a judicial review into the closure decisions. There were two petitions signed by more than 7,000 people, MPs wrote on behalf of families and there was a joint campaign by trade unions Unison and the GMB.

The homes, which employ a total of 119 staff, cost £2.4 million each per year to run and are said to need around £550,000 in repairs and maintenance.

Shutting both homes down would have saved the council an estimated £1.2 million a year.

Each home has a capacity of 40 beds but there are only 37 residents across the two homes, an occupancy rate of 46%.

Ten beds were taken out at Castle Grange to provide space for the Homestead team which will move to a new dementia day care centre in Mirfield, Knowl Park House, currently under construction.

Ten beds were also removed at Claremont House for planned “facilities management works.”

The council report says that even if there was 100% occupancy, it would still remain “value for money” for the council to pay for places in the private sector instead of running the homes itself.

Based on current occupancy levels, for example, it costs £2,052.76 per bed per week at Castle Grange. The council says the same bed in the private sector would cost £865.32.

The council report adds: “It would be prudent to note that all independent sector care homes in Kirklees state they accept council rates.

“Some residential care homes do request a top up for the care they provide. This is based on individual circumstances. We are therefore unable to advise on the number of homes that would require a top up payment.”

Clr Jackie Ramsay, Cabinet member for health and social care, said: “We are facing increasing demands for – and costs of – social care and must look at how we can make the best of the limited resources available to us.

“There has been a lack of sustainable, long-term funding for social care from Government which means, like other councils, we are now having to make some tough decisions.

“We heard a wide range of views during the consultation process with stakeholders. We will now start to fill the available beds in both homes whilst continuing to explore options with independent sector providers for a transfer.”