OAP centres closure fight gains momentum
By Sharon AsplinCAMPAIGNERS have claimed the tide is turning in their fight to save two day centres from closure.The Labour group on Colchester Borough Council said it had not given up hope of retaining the town's Lion Walk and Abbots Activity Centres, despite the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition cabinet recommending their closure.
By Sharon Asplin
CAMPAIGNERS have claimed the tide is turning in their fight to save two day centres from closure.
The Labour group on Colchester Borough Council said it had not given up hope of retaining the town's Lion Walk and Abbots Activity Centres, despite the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition cabinet recommending their closure.
The future of the two day centres will be discussed at a council meeting next week, when more than 100 people will march on Colchester Town Hall.
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Labour group leader, Tim Young, said its councillors had been campaigning hard, together with the centres' users and pensioner groups, to save them from closure and claimed their efforts were proving fruitful.
“The tide is definitely turning on the activity centres. We have seen replies from backbench councillors to centre users saying that they are prepared to defy their party leadership and vote to save the centres,” he added.
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“We also know from private discussions we have had with backbench councillors that they will support us when it comes to the vote on February 18 at the full council meeting.
“We know that the Labour councillors will vote against closure and we are pretty confident that most, if not all, of the Independent councillors will do the same.
“We will keep working on the Tory and Lib Dem backbenchers right up until the night of the vote to do the right thing by our elderly folk and save these vital activity centres.”
The proposal to close the centres was made after the council learned a one-off £70,000 social services grant to help fund them would not be repeated.
Cabinet members - who have been forced to pare down next year's budget to avoid another big increase in council tax - queried the cost of providing subsidy for the meals, which is currently estimated at about £300 per pensioner per year.
There were also problems at the centres, including a dwindling number of users and difficulties with staffing.
Robert Davidson, the Conservative cabinet member with responsibility for the activity centres, said the closure was not a foregone conclusion.
But he added the council had to consider whether it was giving value for money to all elderly people in the borough, not just the activity centre members.