Council leader Philip Whitehead has come under fire after ordering councillors not to directly respond to queries on Furlong Close.

The care facility is run by charity Hft, which has handed in its notice to Wiltshire Council.

Families say they have been left in limbo over the uncertain future of the Rowde site, which is home to vulnerable adults.

Wiltshire Council cabinet member for adult social care, Simon Jacobs, had expressed his personal desire for residents of Furlong Close to remain at the facility for the remainder of their lives, in a meeting last week.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald:

Mark Mangham, a Liberal Democrat candidate for Bromham, Rowde and Roundway, has been working alongside Save Furlong Close campaigners to seek clarification on the future of the facility.

An email, signed by council leader Philip Whitehead, has now emerged.
Reportedly sent to all Conservative councillors and candidates for the upcoming May election, it has instructed them not to respond to queries on the topic.

The email reads: “You may have recently received correspondence regarding Furlong Close. Please do not respond to this. Wiltshire Council is working and meeting with the Wiltshire residents and families involved, to find a solution. This is still taking place despite the fact there is a court case pending.”

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Philip WhiteheadPhilip Whitehead

Leader of the opposition, Ian Thorn, said it was “truly disappointing” to read the council leader’s order.

Jon Hubbard, an independent councillor for Melksham South, added he was shocked and that the email was an example of why he left party politics behind.

He added that he “stands shoulder to shoulder with Furlong Close residents.”
Mr Mangham had explained that his emails had been sent in a bid for clarification.

He  said: “I was seeking a formal explanation of what appeared to be a change of line on the council’s position on Furlong Close. I thought it would be useful to get confirmation, as Simon’s comments had been welcomed. This seems to be a point about how the council exercises its authority, as there seems to be  begrudging approach to Furlong Close.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Mark ManghamMark Mangham

“Ultimately, this isn’t about an election or politics - it’s about people.”

Mr Whitehead was contacted for comment.

The council leader’s letter also stated: “Wiltshire Council looks after 1,000s of vulnerable individuals every day of every year, the residents of Furlong Close are just an example. Wiltshire has an excelled record of looking after the vulnerable and will continue to do so.”

Care for the majority of the residents at Furlong Close is funded by Wiltshire Council, but the site is run by Hft. Trish Gange, whose daughter of Katie lives at Furlong Close, said families still sought clarity. She said: "We've come this far, we're not giving up now."

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Dianne Gale Dianne Gale

Dianne and John Gale, whose son lives in Furlong Close, added: "Most of the residents here thought it would be their home for life. They have a right to that promise."

Rowde's Revd Ruth Schofield said, despite the promises from cabinet member Cllr Jacobs, there remained "worries" that promises would not be acted upon.

Hft's notice period ends on 19 May and it has agreed that another operator can take over for two years but one is yet to be found, with the council putting the contract out to tender.

Families hope a deal can be made to find another care provider for at least two years so that families can have time to work on a long-term solution.

Throughout the process, charity Hft has promised to provide care until a new service provider was found, and Wiltshire Council have said they will work with residents and their families to find a solution.