A MAJOR £4.2m refurbishment for four Halton Council-run care homes has been rubber-stamped, with one chief hitting out at ‘fly by night’ operators.

Halton’s Executive Board gave its backing to the investment programme for Millbrow in Widnes, St Luke’s in Runcorn, as well as St Patrick's and Madeline McKenna Court in Widnes. The work will be carried out over the next three years.

All four homes had previously been run privately but brought under council control in  the past few years, with the authority since identifying a need for refurbishment and upgrades.

The plans include building an extension at St Patrick’s and increasing floor space in bedrooms. They also include making shared spaces lighter and more usable and creating rooms and areas that have purpose, such as sensory rooms and gardens.

At the meeting held at the Municipal Building in Widnes, Cllr Tom McInerney, Executive Board Member for Children, Education and Social Care, told members: “I wholeheartedly support it. This is one of the proudest things that’s happened while I’ve been on the council, to take these homes back again. As we know, government policy is to sell everything off but in this case - we’re doing the opposite.”

He said the homes were also proving to be a good source of training and work experience for local trainees.

He added: “I’m also proud of the chance it’s given to our college students to do some placements within those homes which they wouldn’t have got with these ‘fly by nights’ who do come in, take over the home, run it down and take the money - which we’ve seen.”

The council had not originally wanted to run any care homes, but was forced to intervene after various private operators fell into difficulty.

In 2017, 'financial viability and quality issues' meant the council decided to purchase Millbrow Care Home after it was put at risk of closure. Then, over the course of the following two years, the council also acquired St Luke’s and St Patrick's dementia nursing homes.

These were both privately owned and the council said there had been ‘significant and long-term’ lack of investment.

The three care homes amount to more than 60 per cent of the nursing beds in the borough, supporting residents with the most complex health needs. The acquisition of the three homes, along with Madeline McKenna Court residential home, made the council the largest care home provider in the borough for older people.