STAFF at a day centre for elderly people fear standards could plummet if council chiefs choose to close or sell off a neighbouring care home.

Employees at Priory Day Centre, in Prittlewell Chase, Westcliff, believe an ongoing review of the future of nearby Priory House could seriously damage the levels of “care and commitment” given to people who use the centre.

Southend Council has earmarked a string of options for the home and Delaware House, in Maplin Way North, Shoebury, which includes shutting one or both of them to save cash.

But Peter Passingham, the assistant branch secretary for Southend Unison, said union members at the day centre were worried about the possible impacts.

He added: “Our service users are very happy with what we provide and, when asked formally, expressed their satisfaction with the care they receive and specifically with the staff group which delivers it.

“The most valuable resource at Priory Day Centre is not the buildings, it is the people.”

The council needs to save £32million over the next three years to stay in the black.

Priory House, built in the Fifties, has 24 beds that each cost more than £774 a week to run.

It is a similar story at Seventies-built Delaware House, where the 28 beds each cost £849 a week.

Bosses believe the cost of upgrading the homes to match the standards of the 74 privately-run care homes in the town could be too much to squeeze into their budgets.

Any closures would be done by limiting admissions, allowing the existing patients to live out the rest of their days in the homes.

However, Mike Boyle, the council’s head of commissioning, pointed out the day centre was not actually part of the review and it was “quite possible” the decisions taken on the future of the care homes would have “no impact” on it.

The review is due to be completed early next year, and councillors will then make a decision on the best way forward.

Mr Boyle added: “At the outset, the council made it clear that it wished to undertake the review in an open and transparent way as we are only too aware of the anxieties and concerns that can arise in these circumstances.

“As a result, there have already been a number of meetings with staff and relatives to explain the process and to listen to any anxieties or concerns people may have.

“We will be holding further meetings with staff and their representatives and we will, of course, listen to the concerns being raised by Unison on behalf of their members.”