MEMBERS of Southampton’s two biggest unions have threatened strike action if the council pushes through with plans to close its last remaining care homes.

Both Unison and Unite have told the city council that if they make the decision, it will cause “too much damage to industrial relations” and its 2,500 authority-employed members could revolt.

In a move that would threaten around 70 jobs, civic chiefs claim shutting Glen Lee in Bitterne, and Holcroft House in Thornhill, would save £1,327,000.

However, the council has promised to relocate staff to other areas of the service if the homes are closed.

It comes as part of the authority’s proposed new budget, which includes a 2.99 per cent council tax hike as it looks to save more than £15 million by 2021.

Currently about 75 elderly people, many who suffer from dementia, live in the two homes, with Holcroft at 91 per cent of its capacity. The authority has said it will help those residents move to other locations - even picking up the private bill if necessary.

At the council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening, October 16, Unite member Mark Wood said that strikes could take place if the authority commits to the closures.


“I think it’s safe to say that we are extremely unhappy about this,” he said.

“We were told [about the closures] at the same time as the press and the public. We, and staff members at the home, asked for for more information, but we were not given any.

“This is a very sad day for industrial relations.”

He added: “We will fight tooth and nail to stop this.

“The Labour party was built to help the very people this is attacking.

“We ask you to conduct a proper review of the closure plans as you have recognised [in a meeting you had with us] you should’ve done in the first place. Find a viable alternative.”

The proposed decision has also prompted the two groups to create a petition, which has collected more than 700 signatures since October 10.

Unison deputy branch secretary Claire Ransom said: “We are of the opinion that pushing ahead with the consultation, with what is likely to be the wrong preferred option, is going to cause too much damage to industrial relations and to a Labour leadership.

“We would hope that the strength of feeling expressed [by signatures in the petition], in less than a week, about the closure proposals is being noted.

“We’re clear that management at the homes need to be armed with the information and tools to put viable alternative proposals and want the council to take a breath before going ahead.

“Deeds not words are what we’re seeking.”


Ms Ransom also told members that other authorities, such as Reading in 2013, have made similar decisions to close all its council-run care homes. She says this has resulted in private care prices rising in those area.

The Unison representative added that women and low-income members would be the most affected by the care home closures.

“If the council is genuinely trying to ensure a strong economy in Southampton, and the sustainability of public services, it would look to the departments that currently provided those services and invest in them, trust them to use their expertise and work alongside management to achieve the savings required,” she said.

Nevertheless, members voted to push on to the next phase of the budget. A public consultation will now be held.

Council leader Chris Hammond, pictured inset, said: “We will work with residents across the city as part of the proposed consultation, to see what the future of these homes will be.”

Regarding why cuts were having to be made, he added: “£136.4 million has been robbed from this authority [by central government cutting its funding].

“We’re told that austerity is over – well it sure doesn’t feel like that in Southampton.”