Labour councillors have condemned the decision, made last night by the ruling Lib-Dem/Green executive of City of York Council, to sell the Oakhaven care home site, despite opposition from local residents and local councillors.
Council research conducted last year found that the most popular accommodation option for people in their later years is independent living, with over two thirds of respondents (67%) expressing an interest. Nearly 20 people apply, on average, for each available independent living property. Local councillors have argued the Oakhaven site is ideally suited to this use, due to its close proximity to shops, West Bank Park and other local amenities.
However, a report approved last night by council’s Executive recommended selling the currently vacant care home site on the open market should an initial plan to sell it to a luxury private care home provider prove unsuccessful. Burlington Care Homes, the council’s intended purchaser, has over 30 care homes in the region listed on its website, with a significant number listed on the Care Quality Commission website as ‘requires improvement’.
Councillor Rachel Melly, a ward councillor for Holgate ward where Oakhaven is located, asked to speak to the executive meeting on the plans, but was denied on the basis that the session was “full”. She said:
“Many people struggle as they get older to live independently, despite wanting to. People’s family homes can be too large to manage once family move out as the stairs might cause difficulty, or the location might make it difficult to live independently. But that shouldn’t mean people have no option other than to go into a care home.
“We want our older residents to have the option of a home which is small, safe and manageable, with the ability to form a close community of people wanting the same kind of living. This option must be properly considered before the decision is made to turn it into a luxury care home that most local people can’t afford, or sold to be turned into similarly unaffordable expensive flats”.
Councillor Danny Myers, Labour’s group leader on the council, attended the meeting and argued that the social value of the site should be given proper consideration, rather than just its monetary value.
Labour’s spokesperson on Health and Adult Social Care, Councillor Anna Perrett, stated:
“Oakhaven is in a perfect location for older people’s independent living accommodation. It is part of a neighbourhood, close to a GP practice, a supermarket and other shops on a high street, a large park and on good bus routes. This is what many older people want, not having to live somewhere where they are much more likely to become isolated. The older people’s accommodation options for Oakhaven need to be fully reviewed and considered in a comprehensive and transparent way.”
The council’s Health and Adult Social Care Policy and Scrutiny Committee committed early this year to reviewing and scrutinising older people’s accommodation options for the site before it went to the Executive for a decision. The Covid pandemic resulted in that discussion being postponed, due to the council cancelling most meetings, but Cllr. Melly says the committee’s views should have been sought prior to Executive making a final decision.
“The key issue here for me,” she said, “is do Lib-Dem/Green ruling councillors want to best utilise this site and its location to support older people’s independent living, something the council says is a priority, or do they simply want to cash in? Unfortunately it sounds much more like the latter, which is a wasted opportunity”.