CARE homes across Southend could be the first victims of Southend Council’s multi-million pound cuts.

The authority wants to slice its contribution to privately-run homes which take on council-funded residents, as it strives to plug a £15.5million black hole in its balance sheet.

Finance chiefs want to reduce the payments they make for each person by 5 per cent.

However, care home owners say the move will threaten their futures.

Barry Gelfand, who runs West House, in St Vincent’s Road, Westcliff, with his wife Marion, said: “It would cost us thousands of pounds.

“It would affect the sustainability of the business.

“Our other costs – minimum wage, National Insurance, food and VAT – are all going up. There are only so many cuts we can make ourselves.

“Closures are a real possibility if this goes ahead.”

Local authorities are obliged to fund part or all of residents’ care bills if they cannot afford to pay themselves.

The sum they receive is dependent on their existing wealth and the size of their pension.

Many private care homes are reliant on the income from councils to keep their doors open. About 40 per cent of the residents at West House are partly-funded by local authorities, ranging from Southend to London.

Several, including Hackney and Havering councils, have already promised to maintain their funding next year.

Despite their assurances, Mr Gelfand said it would not stop standards dropping for residents, if Southend Council decided to press ahead with its own cuts.

The authority needs to save £15.5million next year as a result of the Government trying to claw back on the national deficit.

Mr Gelfand added: “The point is all of the money goes towards the running costs, so if one authority cuts its funding, the rest suffer as well.

“We have high standards, but there comes a point when you cannot afford to keep going as you are.”