ALMOST 1,000 residents and staff at Southern Cross care homes in East Lancashire must wait to see who will take over running the properties.

The cash-strapped operator, which has 752 homes and 31,000 residents in total, announced it would close today after landlords refused to restructure rental agreements.

It said landlords of 250 homes had agreed to take them back and run them themselves, but negotiations were still ongoing with the owners of the remaining 502, a process that could take up to four months.

A spokesman said it was not able to provide any specific information about the owners of its nine homes in East Lancashire or whether they had reached an agreement.

However, the GMB union said it had established the names of the landlords.

It claimed that 336 of the homes due to be taken back were owned by companies outside the UK, with 325 registered in ‘tax havens’.

GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “Southern Cross may be on its last legs but for Southern Cross's 31,000 residents and 43,000 staff this looks like a case of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’.”

The owners of Hulton Care Home in Nelson, Libra Careco Offshore Superholdco Ltd, based in the Cayman Islands, could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for Vector Property Group, which owns Acorn House in Roe Lee, Blackburn, said it was still in negotiations with Southern Cross about Acorn House and 59 other homes.

The Lancashire Telegraph was unable to speak to Mr William Grey, the owner of Belmont care home in Longridge, or Leslie and Mark Hindle of Hindle and Walker Limited, which owns Birch Hall in Darwen.

Nobody from Cox Limited, listed in Glasgow, which owns Highfield Hall in Haslingden, K/S Hardy Avenue, listed in Denmark, which owns Brierfield House in Brierfield, or Loopsign Ltd of London, which owns both Hope House in Clayton-le-Moors and Wordsworth House in Hapton could be reached for comment.

Loyds Propco, which owned Hill View in Rawtenstall, is in administration.

No details were available on the reason for Loyds Propco’s plight.

Ann Mylie, Lancashire County Council's head of quality and contracting for social care, said Southern Cross had stressed that the latest developments were ‘not expected to directly affect any of their residents’.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive member for adult social services, Coun Mohammed Khan, said it was working closely with Southern Cross to ensure that any changes would have minimal disruption for residents.

Vanessa Hollings, director of commissioning at Blackburn with Darwen Care Trust Plus, added: “Should closures be announced care management teams stand ready to assess residents' needs and provide support should alternative accommodation be required.”