Protestors gathered outside an emergency meeting in Exeter yesterday to fight a decision to close almost 40 care homes and day centres.
Campaigners joined opposition councillors to challenge Devon County Council’s plans to shut all but two of its 22 residential care homes to save £10.7 million.
Around 750 jobs may be lost, and another 250 jobs could go in council-run day centres as the authority closes 17 of them to reduce its spend by £1.7m a year.
About 260 residents in the council-run homes face moving into private homes over the next 18 months, subject to the plans being approved.
Opponents are demanding a U-turn on the controversial programme of cuts that they say is “morally wrong”.
Distressed, worried and confused relatives of those needing to move have voiced their concerns that alternative arrangements in private care homes do not exist, councillors say.
Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors invoked a special procedure to ‘call-in’ the proposals for discussion at a scrutiny meeting at County Hall on Thursday.
In spite of wet weather, around 20 protestors stood outside the council chamber holding banners and placards saying ‘Save Devon’s Care Homes’.
Unions were furious at a council ruling that families and carers of those affected were not allowed to speak at the committee meeting, accusing the administration of “choking off” public debate.
Steve Ryles, Devon county branch secretary of union Unison, said the council’s decision was “wrong”.
He said: “They need to slow down and think again. They need to walk and stop running.”
He said the council had taken a “one size fits all” approach to the homes and needed to examine them on an individual basis.
But the council’s People Scrutiny Committee – that independently monitors how the authority makes decisions – rejected the opposition member motions, meaning the proposals still stand.
The Conservative-controlled council says the homes and day care centres are too expensive to run as it tries to cut its spending by a third to £400m a year by 2017.
The authority previously said it would be “working very closely” with affected residents and their families.