Jobs slashed as Southern Cross fights

STRUGGLING care home operator Southern Cross unveiled plans to cut 3,000 of its staff yesterday as it battles to fend off bankruptcy.

The cuts, billed as a means to “address levels of staff effectiveness across its homes”, equate to six per cent of its 44,000 workforce but Southern Cross said they would not affect the quality of its care.

The care provider has caused a political storm since it admitted it needed to reduce its rent as it is struggling to pay its bills.

Concerns over the fate of the 31,000 elderly and disabled people under its care, and a public mudslinging over its sale and leaseback model of operating, have overshadowed the company’s fight to restructure to avoid administration.

Southern Cross has said it wants to sell 200 of its care homes to reduce its debt and has asked landlords for a 30 per cent respite on its rent bill over the next four months.

But it denied that the job cuts were directly a consequence of the financial problems at the company, and claimed they were part of a change programme called New Horizons undertaken over the past 18 months.

Chief executive Jamie Buchan said it was “engaging with colleagues to put in place the best possible staffing model for our future needs, and one which fully embraces the best practice available to us.”

But chairman Christopher Fisher urged support for the changes because “there is too much of value within our business for it to be lightly discarded”.

“We believe that for a critical mass of our landlords, supporting a restructured Southern Cross remains the most attractive option open to them, as we intend to demonstrate,” he said.