Sanctuary acquisition of Cornwall Care dependent on councillors

Councillors are being advised to accept plans to dispose of 14 freehold properties that would help pave the way for Sanctuary Housing Association to acquire Cornwall Care.

If Cornwall Council councillors agree it is expected the acquisition could go through this summer.

According to documents, Cornwall Care, which is the single largest provider of registered care home beds in the county, approached the authority in late autumn 2021 to discuss plans to strengthen its resilience following the pandemic and the ongoing impact of recruitment and financial issues.

In addition to the provision of care, the council has other relationships with the provider, including ownership of the freeholds of 15 sites.

Cornwall Care also approached Sanctuary Housing Association to explore the possibility of an acquisition because of the ‘alignment of charitable objectives’, size and portfolio, which includes operating over 100 care homes. If the deal goes through Cornwall Care would exist as a subsidiary of Sanctuary.

Sanctuary, which is one of the largest not-for profit housing associations across England and Scotland, second only to Anchor, has also agreed to address maintenance issues across the homes if the deal goes ahead and undertake ‘a reprovision programme’ that would see the development of new and refurbished care homes over a ten-year period.

However, the council paper pointed out: ‘One condition of the acquisition stipulated by Sanctuary is the requirement to purchase the freeholds of 14 of the care home sites currently leased to Cornwall Care by the council.’

Cornwall Care operated 16 settings providing over 645 residential and nursing beds across the county until earlier this year when it decided to temporarily shutter three settings, resulting in the reduction of 111 beds. As reported in February, financial indicators around working capital and indebtedness were ‘trending adversely’ for three years, forcing it to temporarily close the homes.

Of the 16 care homes, 15 are leased from the council, which owns the freeholds. Only one site is owned by Cornwall Care – Cedar Grange in Launceston. Proposals include the council to retain the freehold of one site, leading to the transfer of the freeholds of 14 care homes.

The council paper said: ‘Cornwall Care view this acquisition as a critical way of preventing the need for further closures.’ Without the acquisition, it has indicated it will need to consider alternative plans.

At a meeting of the Cornwall Council cabinet on Monday (27 June), members will be recommended to dispose of its freehold interest of the 14 sites to Sanctuary. Rejection ‘is likely to stop the acquisition of Cornwall Care by Sanctuary’, it said.