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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 May 2006, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
North care homes to be privatised
Care home protesters
More than 100 people joined the demonstration
The running of six council-owned care homes across the north of Scotland is to be put out to private tender.

The move comes after a long and emotional debate at Highland Council's Inverness headquarters.

Campaigners staged a protest before the meeting voicing their fears that standards of care would fall.

Councillors were told it could cost more than 40m to do the work required on the upkeep of the homes. The private sector will now be invited to tender.

A crowd of more than 100 protesters had urged the authority not to go down the route of privatisation and warned members that the decision could impact on next year's elections.

CARE HOMES GOING TO TENDER
Burnside and Ach an Eas in Inverness
Urray House in Muir of Ord
Duthac House in Tain
Grant House in Grantown
Invernevis House in Fort William

The council said it could not afford to refurbish or rebuild the homes.

However, the debate did raise conflict, with the social work chairwoman clashing with her deputy over the fate of one home.

Colin Neilson, former convener of Lochaber District Council, was among the demonstrators waving placards and shouting "save our care homes" outside Highland Council.

Mr Neilson said he had joined the demo because he recognised that he may need a care home one day.

In a warning to councillors who supported privatisation, he said: "Look out next April if you don't save these homes."

Each councillor and each MP and MSP has had masses of letters from every corner of the Highlands asking them to think again
Sheila Mackay
Highland senior citizens

Sheila Mackay, of Highland Senior Citizens Network, said councillors and local politicians could be in no doubt about the weight of opposition.

She said: "Each councillor and each MP and MSP has had masses of letters from every corner of the Highlands asking them to think again."

The demonstrators came from Inverness, Lochaber and Badenoch and Strathspey to gather outside the Glenurquhart Road premises in the warm morning sunshine.

There was a noisy shout of slogans and chants every time a councillor walked through the crowd into the building.

Politicians including MP Charles Kennedy and MSP Fergus Ewing have called for a halt to the privatisation process.

The problem has been caused by a growing elderly population and the failure of some of the council's existing care homes to meet national standards.

Highland Council also has a lot of small rural homes for the elderly, which it said were expensive to run.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear local reaction to the controversial decision



SEE ALSO:
Care homes need rebuild or revamp
09 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Council care homes sale attacked
09 Nov 05 |  Scotland


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