Extraordinary Hartlepool Borough Council meeting approves £700,000 plans for new children's homes

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Councillors have unanimously backed £700,000 plans to increase the local authority's children's home capacity by developing two new sites.

An extraordinary meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council unanimously approved prudential borrowing of up to £700,000 to fund the project.

The work will see the conversion of the council-owned Star Centre in Flint Walk, which was previously a children’s home before being used as office accommodation for the past 20 years.

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It will be renovated to provide care for three children, by splitting the building into two sites offering a specialist one bed home and two bed home.

The Star Centre, in Flint Walk, Hartlepool. (Photo: Google Maps)The Star Centre, in Flint Walk, Hartlepool. (Photo: Google Maps)
The Star Centre, in Flint Walk, Hartlepool. (Photo: Google Maps)

Council chiefs stressed the move will reduce its overall costs for children in residential care due to rising prices of independent sector placements.

Based on current interest rates the annual cost of borrowing is forecast to be £44,000 per year.

Council leader Cllr Mike Young noted the average cost of their top ten most expensive external placements is over £9,000 per week, meaning it would be financially advantageous to progress with the scheme.

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He said: “This will enable the local authority to care for children in our care in Hartlepool rather than finding independent sector placements which… have an extremely high cost.

“Significant building work is required to bring the building up to modern day standards to meet regulatory requirements.

“However, when set against the cost of external placements, based on the above average for three children, this cost will be reached within 26 weeks.”

Regular updates on the project will go before councillors after calls from Labour representatives.

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A decision had been due to be made at the last full council meeting, but it was deferred for a members seminar to be held for more detailed financial discussions.

The £700,000 budget includes £96,155 and £78,015 respectively for “significant works” to upgrade mechanical and electrical parts, along with £24,675 on asbestos removal and £23,375 on alarm systems.

Construction work is estimated at £326,532, with £30,000 for preliminaries and the remaining costs earmarked to account for inflation, a contingency fund and fees to carry out the work.

Officers noted analysis of placement costs show residential care provided by the council is approximately 30% less than the lowest priced placements in the independent sector.

Consideration was given to purchasing and converting alternative properties, but the costs would “likely” have been higher.