PLANS to close a crumbling Thatcham care home and move the 17 elderly residents during the pandemic have been given the green light.

The council is going to shut Walnut Close Care Home and move the residents and 25 full-time staff members to other care homes it runs, in a bid to save £330,000 a year.

The council says the building is no longer fit for purpose and the Covid-19 pandemic “necessitates more urgent action” because the care home only has shared bathrooms (no ensuites) and this is making infection control difficult.

The decision was made at a meeting on November 19, when Liberal Democrat councillors called on the Conservative-run council to “wait until the pandemic has subsided”.

READ MORE: Council confident it can safely transfer 17 care home residents during pandemic

Graham Bridgman, executive member for adult social care, said: “We recognise that the idea of moving to another care home might be unsettling for some residents and their families.

“But all possible care will be taken including rigorous risk assessments and Covid testing – we are not going to rush this and everything will be done to ensure that the residents have a successful move and enjoy their new surroundings.”

Most of the residents and staff are now due to be moved to Birchwood Care Home in Newbury by the end of February 2021, but some could be sent to Willows Edge in Newbury or Notrees Care Home in Hungerford.

The three care homes have a total of 40 vacancies and the council says there is “an opportunity to consolidate”.

Cllr Bridgeman added: “We have sufficient spaces, of the right kind, in our Birchwood care home to accommodate all of the residents from our Walnut Close care home in a more modern setting with enhanced facilities such as ensuite bathrooms.

“Birchwood is under two miles from Walnut so there shouldn’t be any issues for families in visiting.

“All of the care staff from Walnut Close are being offered like roles at Birchwood, so that there will be a continuity of friendly faces when residents arrive in their new surroundings – we don’t anticipate that there will be any need for redundancies.”

He said there was a Covid-19 outbreak at the care home earlier this year, but it is not currently dealing with any cases.

READ MORE: Cause of deadly Covid-19 care home outbreak in Shinfield investigated

According to the council, the care home is no longer fit for purpose and £150,000 worth of building work needs to be completed this year to ensure it remains safe for residents.

It used to accommodate 35 residents, but 10 rooms are currently vacant and seven are closed.

The council is also hoping that it will save money by redeploying full-time staff to other care homes that are currently relying on expensive agency staff to fill vacancies.