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SANDWELL: Council u-turns on Walker Grange

SANDWELL: Council u-turns on Walker Grange

Shaun Bailey MP, far right, with protestors outside Sandwell council

‘Unthinkable’ closure fears of a much-loved Sandwell care home have been brought to a sudden halt after an unexpected u-turn by chiefs.

Angry residents had been campaigning to remove an option of closing Walker Grange care home – and had raised a petition with more than 1,000 signatures.

A 12-week consultation was brought to a close one week early after Sandwell council announced it would instead upgrade the home’s facilities.

But it was still questioned why residents – who said they would rather sleep in the streets than move – had been forced to face a ‘long, hard and emotional journey’.

The news comes after a sustained campaign by Save Walker Grange, local councillors and MPs.

Three options were unveiled in a public consultation: do nothing, close Walker Grange and transfer tenants to nearby Willow Gardens care home, or upgrade the facilities.

In a full council meeting on October 12, councillors debated whether to reconsider and remove the option of closure for Walker Grange care home.

But the call to remove the closure option was defeated, despite a large number of angry residents in attendance who cried out that the decision was ‘rubbish’.

The 12-week consultation into the future of the Tipton-based care home, running from September 1 to November 23, has now been stopped, after several Labour councillors faced a huge backlash from constituents and campaign groups.

A spokesperson for Sandwell council: “This is not a U-turn. The council was very clear from the beginning that there had been no pre-determined outcome to the consultation. Our approach of taking the time to get all the facts has proved to be correct because rather than managing the decline of Walker Grange, we now have a proposal that, if agreed by cabinet, will make it even better than before.

Council leader Rajbir Singh, (Labs, Bristnall) said: “I would like to thank all of the residents and families who took part in the consultation, the cabinet report sets out very clearly how committed we have been to getting a full picture of their needs and wishes.”

But Cllr Archer Williams (Cons, Tipton), said it was a “long, hard fought and emotional journey” over the future of the care home.

He said: “I am delighted to see the council finally moving toward option three.

“It has been a huge honour for me to lead from the front with the Save Walker Grange campaign. This was a long, hard fought and a very emotional campaign.
“Four months ago this result was looking impossible. The report to cabinet was designed to paint Walker Grange as a lost cause, and after speaking to the leader of the council and members of his cabinet, I was feeling very concerned about the councils intentions.
“I was also very concerned when the two letters I sent the cabinet member for adult health and social care were ignored for a while.
“However this campaign was so energised, so effective and so powerful. Together families of Walker Grange residents and even elderly residents themselves became active in the campaign.
“Who would of imagined elderly people leaving their care home to raise support for petitions and attend a full council meeting, leaving after 9pm at night and even protesting against the council.
“I hope the council do initiate option three as this is the right thing to do not just for the Walker Grange residents but for Tipton as a whole.”

Shaun Bailey MP, West Bromwich West, who had been campaigning against the closure, said: “Clearly this decision shows the power of community campaigning and what happens when a community comes together.

“We need to make sure that Sandwell council’s feet are held to the fire and they now truly invest in the long term future of Walker Grange.”

Cllr Joanne Hadley, (Ind, Great Bridge) said: “It shouldn’t have gone this far. More stress for the elderly residents there, but they have dragged it on and used it politically just before [May 2022 elections] to take credit for it.”

Cllr Suzanne Hartwell, (Labs, Oldbury) and cabinet member for adults, social care and health said: “The wellbeing of the tenants at Walker Grange has always been our top priority.

“We have taken the time to get all the facts and listen to what residents want, and I am delighted that we will be able to make Walker Grange even better than before and provide vital services for our communities for many years ahead”.

This is not the first time Sandwell council has u-turned after political pressure.

In June this year, Goldicroft Park, located in Wednesbury, previously underwent a consultation to develop the green space into housing. Following local outcry, council leader Rajbir Singh (Labs, Bristnall) announced that a homes plan for the park would not go ahead.

Walker Grange care home, is made up of 39 one-bed apartments properties. There are currently 22 tenants at the care home.

Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter

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