The cost of providing care for elderly residents is proving too much for Devon County Council (DCC), which finds it cheaper to look to the private sector. DCC has already provoked a financial storm by admitting it is spending £274,000 a year to keep care homes closed!
"The county council are spending £274,000 in the coming financial year on maintaining the empty homes and putting in security and burglar alarms," says one outraged local councillor. "But they don’t appear to have a plan for actually disposing of the properties either by selling them or renting them or doing something to cut the costs to the public purse."
DCC wants to cut its annual spending in this sector by £10.7m by closing 20 care homes and argues that the quarter of a million pounds it will spend on moth-balling them is small "compared to the year on year savings generated by making these changes." It also hopes to eventually sell or transfer these properties.
DCC admits the cost of looking after the elderly in council care homes is far more expensive than in the private sector. ‘"It’s clear, from talking to charities, carers and private care home owners," says a cabinet council member, "that although there are a small number of areas where the care home market needs development, overall there is plenty of capacity in the private sector, and that they can provide it at less cost to the council."
It has been estimated that the average cost of a bed in a council ran home is £979 per week, whereas the council pays private care homes an average of £433 a bed per week. From 2011 to 2021, the population of Devon aged over 70 will increased by 34 per cent, and DCC is right to start tackling this issue now—but it needs to ensure that taxpayers’ money is not wasted in the future on keeping care homes shut!
Tim Newark, South West TaxPayers’ Alliance