Suffolk CC is set to put all 16 of its care homes for the elderly up for sale, according to cabinet papers.
The cabinet will vote on plans to invite expressions of interest from providers wishing to acquire “any or all of the council’s homes” for older people and award contracts in 2012 on 24 May.
An appraisal carried out by KPMG and published alongside the report indicated the move was part of the council’s broader aims to move away from direct service provision towards being an “enabling council”.
Suffolk portfolio holder for adult and community services, Colin Noble (Con), said the council could no longer afford to run and improve its residential care homes.
He added: “We therefore need to look at new ways of providing care for older people - whilst protecting them from uncertainty and unnecessary upheaval.
“I want to make one thing absolutely clear. One of the options were looking at was closing all care homes. I’m pleased to say we’re not going forward with that option today.”
Cllr Noble said that of the 2,800 people Suffolk provides care home places for, just 526 live in the 16 residential homes with some 2,300, already in independent sector care homes.
The paper said: “The council’s business agent [KPMG] has shown that there is interest in this approach, which would bring certainty about the availability and cost of places for people with dementia or complex care needs and which, it is estimated, could save £49.9m over 22 years by securing the price for some dementia places offset in part by one off transitional costs.”
It added that the “structured divestment” of the estate could involve an agreement with one or more care providers to purchase the estate.
The move, which followed a 12-week consultation, comes with the leading care home operator Southern Cross Healthcare potentially on the brink of administration. Rising rent levels left Southern Cross, which runs some 750 care homes in England, engaged in emergency talks with landlords.