HOMES for the elderly in South Tyneside could face the axe as part of a major review, it was revealed today.
But union bosses are set to fight any closures and the loss of up to 100 public sector jobs.
Although the review covers services across the borough, the Gazette understands that three homes in particular – Beech Street, Jarrow, and Connolly House and Gerald Street, both South Shields – are being earmarked for closure.
However, council chiefs say talks have taken place with staff at the council-run homes as part of the adult services review, and no decision would be taken until the new year.
But the news comes less than a fortnight after South Tyneside Council was slammed as one of the worst providers of adult social care in the country, in a report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Ironically, Connolly House received an 'excellent' rating, while Gerald Street was deemed 'good' by Government watchdogs. Beech Street has not yet been rated.
Merv Butler, South Tyneside branch secretary of Unison, said: "Our shop stewards are fully in favour of fighting these closures.
"An overall assessment of adult services is under way, but we believe Beech Street, Connolly House and Gerald Street are part of a phased closure programme.
"There are between 90 and 100 staff in these homes, and the majority are Unison members. We aim to oppose any closures."
Coun John Hodgson, Independent Alliance member for Monkton, which includes Beech Street elderly home, said he is "alarmed" at the potential closure plans.
He is also worried about elderly and dementia care being "doled out to the private sector".
"Before any decisions are made, I would like to see an audit of social care provision," said Coun Hodgson.
"These three homes seem to be in the frame for closure, but I'm not convinced that alternative provision is available.
"Plus, Connolly House is the borough's main centre for dementia care, and I want to know what would take its place."
Bruce Turner, GMB convenor for South Tyneside, added: "We appear to be hiving this and many other services off to the private sector.
"Like Unison, the GMB aims to fight these closures."
Coun Emma Lewell, lead member for independent and healthy lives, said: "There have been discussions as part of the review and closure is always an option, but it is not the preferred option and nothing has been set in stone.
"But it's fair to say that Beech Street is quite old and outmoded and a lot of money will have to be spent to bring some homes for the elderly up to scratch.
"However, any final decision will not be made by the Cabinet until early next year."
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: "The council is considering proposals on a wide range of services and will be consulting fully on these prior to any decision being made by members."