UPDATE: Southern Cross, no “immediate threat” of home closures in Norfolk insists County Hall

County Hall leaders in Norfolk today moved to reassure residents living in homes run by stricken care provider Southern Cross that there was no 'immediate threat' of home closures.

The firm, which has 15 homes in Norfolk, four in Suffolk and seven in Cambridgeshire had its shares suspended this morning after failing to strike a refinancing deal with its landlords.

The news could have implications for hundreds of people and their families currently living in its homes in this region.

But David Harwood, cabinet member for adult and community services, insisted that contingency measures were in place, but gave not details as to when they would be triggered or when County Hall would feel compelled to step in.

Speaking at today's cabinet meeting, he said: 'We have spoken with Southern Cross this morning and there is no threat of immediate home closures, but if that does become necessary in the future we have contingency plans in place to ensure the needs of residents are met.

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'Norfolk County Council has a key role to play as a 'safety net' for vulnerable people and although we hope it won't be necessary in this case, it is a role we are ready and able to perform if required.

'Southern Cross has repeated its commitment today to facilitate both a smooth transition of its homes to new providers and to ensuring continuity of care to its residents. Norfolk County Council welcomes this statement and is committed to working with the company to ensure that the needs of residents are met while homes are transferred to either existing landlords or new owners.

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'Clearly, this has been an uncertain time for Southern Cross residents and its staff, but we hope today's announcement begins to draw that uncertainty to a close.'

The company's Norfolk care homes include The Hawthorns in Unthank Road, Norwich, Alexander Court in Raymond Street, Thetford, Briar House in King's Lynn and Swaffham's Iceni House Care Home.

The group, which overall has 752 homes and 31,000 residents, has been locked in negotiations over a restructuring of the group's property arrangements, but following the landlords' decision it is now working on a plan to facilitate the transition of homes to new landlords and their new operators.

Southern Cross said that, to ensure continuity of care to residents, all payments to trade creditors are to be maintained and all home-based staff transferred on their current terms.

It added that it is expected the existing group will cease to be an operator of homes at the end of the restructuring period. The company's shares have been suspended with immediate effect.

A number of landlords, who are also operators of care homes, have indicated they intend to take over the running or have found new operators for 250 out of the 752 homes and will start to transfer operations shortly.

Landlords of the other 502 homes are said to be finalising their plans.

List of Norfolk homes also include: Badgers Wood, Drayton, near Norwich. Blofield Road, Brundall. Diamond House, Downham Market. Dussindale Park, Thorpe St Andrew. Felmingham Old Rectory. Fryers Walk, Thetford. Hillcrest, Thorpe, near Norwich. Mary Chapman Court, Dussindale, Thorpe St Andrew. St Germans House, King's Lynn. Woodland, Hellesdon, near Norwich. Woodlands, Thetford. Cambridgeshire homes include Dove Court and Strathmore House, both in Wisbech.

Are you affected by the Southern Cross closures? Contact reporter Shaun Lowthorpe on 01603 772471 or email shaun.lowthorpe@archant.co.uk

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