MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
Local Liberal Democrats have expressed their frustration and disappointment after Labour reconfirmed yesterday their commitment to the closure of Haringey’s older people’s drop-in centres and luncheon clubs despite overwhelming opposition to the proposals from service users and local residents.
A special meeting of the Council’s cabinet was convened after Liberal Democrats forced a review of the decision to close older people’s drop-in centres and luncheon clubs which was heard by the Council’s ‘watchdog’ committee earlier in the week.
The Overview and Scrutiny committee agreed with Liberal Democrats that the drop-in centres and luncheon clubs provided a vital preventative service for older residents that the Council should protect.
However, the Labour cabinet ignored the recommendations of the committee and have now forced through the closures. Liberal Democrats, who have spearheaded the campaign against Labour’s cuts, have said that Labour’s decision is short-sighted and will result in older people becoming socially isolated.
Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Adult Social Services spokesperson, comments:
“Local residents and people who use the drop-in centres and luncheon clubs will be bitterly disappointed that, despite showing the Labour Council how much these services are used and depended upon, they have been ignored.
“We asked Labour to give more time to the voluntary sector to make arrangements to take over these centres and they refused even to do that.”
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, added:
“Labour has used the veil of cuts in central government funding to hide their closure programme. They have tried to close these centres before and were forced to backtrack.
“This time they have forced through the closures without giving thought to the long-term costs to local older people who will become socially excluded and vulnerable as a result of this decision.”
At a packed Overview and Scrutiny on Monday, the decision to close drop-in centres for the elderly in the borough was sent back to the Labour Cabinet for review, after Liberal Democrats successfully highlighted the issue.
The decision was made after both Liberal Democrat and Labour members asked Adult Services lead member Dilek Dogus to reconsider the Council’s decision to cut funding to all drop-in centres and to ask the Council Cabinet for more time to allow charities and the voluntary sector to find ways to take over their running.
Over one hundred users and organisers of the services showed their anger at the closure decision as Cllr David Winskill, LibDem lead member for Adult Services, made the case that Haringey had not properly assessed the financial impact of the proposal on other Council services and local Health services.
He also said that there had been inadequate time for the voluntary sector to find the money, training and to make arrangements to take these much valued and essential facilities over. The Scrutiny heard impassioned representations from Haringey Age Concern, HAVCO, I Can Care, Jackson’s Lane, Abyssinia Court, Woodside House and many other campaigners.
One 99 year old gentleman from Abyssinia Court stood up and said, “If these closures were to go ahead, it would be the worst decision Haringey has ever made”.
Commenting on the Referral Back to Cabinet, Cllr Winskill said:
“The meeting was a fantastic demonstration of just how important these centres are. Haringey must listen and try to ensure they are kept open or at the very least, give the Voluntary Sector a breathing space so that they can plan to take them over before they disappear.”
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green added:
“The Scrutiny Committee really showed its mettle on Monday. People are rightly angry that when times get tough, in Haringey, Labour always seems to hit the vulnerable first. There must be time for a rethink so that changes can be made without abandoning our old people’s services.”
The campaign by local Liberal Democrats against Labour’s proposals to close four drop-in centres used by vulnerable older people in Haringey took another step today as councillors formally contested the decision.
In order to try to reverse Labour’s plan to close older people’s drop-in centres at Willoughby Road, Abyssinia Court, the Irish Centre and Woodside House, as well as the luncheon club at Jackson’s Lane, Liberal Democrats have sought a last-minute policy change by referring the proposals to the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee.
Liberal Democrats believe that the cuts proposed by Labour represent an assault on the vital preventative services provided at drop-in centres throughout the borough and would lead to more vulnerable elderly residents becoming socially isolated.
Since Haringey Council published details of plans to close drop-in centres, local Liberal Democrats have spearheaded a campaign to save the services. In February Labour voted against Liberal Democrat budget proposals to keep drop-in centres open.
Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Adult Social Services spokesperson, comments:
“Some vulnerable older residents rely on these services to get out of the house, see friends, get a good meal and access health services. Without these services older people will become socially isolated and their health may deteriorate.
“This is a short-sighted cut to vital services that will not benefit older people and in the long term will not provide the savings identified.”
Lynne Featherstone MP, adds:
“This is not the first time that Labour has tried to close our older people’s drop-in services and luncheon clubs. Previously, in 2000 and 2006, our battles to save the clubs were successful, I hope that Labour will see sense again.”
Haringey Liberal Democrats have renewed their calls for the Labour Council to halt their plans to close older people’s day centres, drop-in centres and luncheon clubs in their formal response to the Council’s consultation.
Backed by 586 local people who signed a petition against Labour’s proposals, Cllr David Winskill and Lynne Featherstone MP today submitted their response which asks that the Council reconsiders Liberal Democrat proposals set out in February to keep services open.
Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Adult Social Services Spokesperson, comments:
“I really hope that the Labour Council reconsiders their plans to close day centres, drop-in centres and luncheon clubs. For many of our older and more vulnerable residents these are, literally, a life-line.
“As we set out in our response, closing these services makes no sense whatsoever – a modest saving for the Council will increase social exclusion of older people, reduce services to our most vulnerable and goes against Labour’s pledge to protect front-line services.
“Labour seem to have made no attempt in assessing the extra costs that will have to be found by the NHS and other agencies if these reckless cuts go ahead.”
Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone added;
“I cannot believe that a council can eliminate these services completely and at the same time reduce its IT spending by a miserable 5%. The effects on older people, carers and families will be devastating. Please, please Haringey – think again!”
Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr David Winskill met with users of Woodside luncheon club at a consultation meeting organised by the Council who are planning to close the services to save £171,000 next year.
The Liberal Democrat representatives urged all users to respond to the ongoing consultation, explaining in their own words how the closure will affect their lives. Many of the elderly people present expressed worries about becoming socially isolated, not getting a hot meal each day, and the loss of the treasured footcare service, should the club close.
Local residents who want to support the Liberal Democrat campaign against the closure can still sign the online petition on http://bit.ly/SaveOlderPeoplesServices and visit http://www.haringey.gov.uk/index/haringey-snap-survey to make their feelings felt.
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
“The Haringey luncheon clubs will cost £171,000 next year to run – that is a tiny fraction of the council’s £286million budget. It’s frankly outrageous that so many elderly residents will suffer to save such a small amount that can be found elsewhere.
“I know that difficult decisions have to be made – but my colleagues on the council have found significant back-office spending that can be cut without the most vulnerable in society suffering. I really hope that as many local residents as possible respond to the consultation, and show that closing this service is a poor way to save money. The Labour Council must rethink.”
Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Adult Social Services spokesperson, adds:
“The benefits of keeping the day centres and luncheon clubs open far exceed the paltry amount it will save the council each year.
“These clubs save the council, the NHS and other agencies large sums of money by helping to keep residents well-fed and healthy and out of the doctor’s surgery and hospital. But more so, they help create a sense of community and belonging for elderly residents, and these benefits cannot be counted in pounds.
“These services are cheap, and their benefits to society are returned a thousand fold. I will certainly make that clear in the Liberal Democrat consultation response – and I hope the users here today will do the same in their responses.”
The campaign follows visits last week to luncheon clubs and care homes in Haringey by leading Liberal Democrats. Lynne Featherstone MP and Stroud Green Councillor Katherine Reece on Friday 21st January listened to concerned luncheon club users at Abyssinia Court, one of the services threatened with closure. The Weston Park club-users are fighting to save their treasured service, which puts on activities like exercise classes, bingo and outings in the local area.
Cllr David Schmitz (Harringay ward) also visited users of Willoughby Road day centre in January 2011.
The Labour Council announced in December 2010 that the Haven and Grange Day Centres, Abyssinia Court, Willoughby Road, Woodside House and Irish Centre Drop-in centres as well as Jackson’s Lane Luncheon club would be cut to save £425,000, representing just 0.2% of the £182 million in central government funding the Council will receive next year.
To help to put pressure on the Labour Council to halt the closures, Liberal Democrats have today launched a petition. Local residents can back the campaign by going to the following site:
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
“I understand that the Council need to make tough decisions following reductions in government funding, which takes Haringey’s share back to the 2007 grant level.
“But that does not mean it needs to make such drastic cuts to frontline services like luncheon clubs. Having spoken to many older people this weekend, I know how precious and treasured these services are.
“The Council needs to take a good hard look at its own backroom spending before cutting life lines like the Abyssinia luncheon club.”
Stroud Green Councillor Katherine Reece adds:
“For many elderly Stroud Green residents, the Abyssinia court luncheon club is a true lifesaver. It’s a place where they can meet other local residents, keep fit and have fun. For many of the club-users I spoke to on my visit, it’s the one time of the day when they get out of the house.
“Surely taking away this life-line, which gives amazing value for money, is madness, and risks having big knock-on effects to the local NHS. This is just not joined-up thinking.
“Please sign our petition and help support our campaign to halt these plans now!”
Liberal Democrats have today demanded that the Council rethinks its proposed cuts to older people’s drop-in centres, luncheon clubs and day centres. The Labour Council announced in December 2010 that the Haven and Grange Day Centres, Abyssina Court, Willoughby Road, Woodside House and Irish Centre Drop-in centres and Jackson’s Lane Luncheon club would be cut to save £425,000.
Liberal Democrats have said that services for older people should not be the first target for the Council to cut and have highlighted that the Council should prioritise back-office savings before cuts to vital services. The cuts to drop-in centres, luncheon clubs and day centres represent just 0.2% of the £182 million in central government funding the Council will receive next year.
The £425,000 cut proposed to drop-in centres, day centres and luncheon clubs is less than the annual cost to residents for the write off of the residents money that the Labour Council lost in the Icelandic bank collapse.
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green comments:
“Local government has to make savings, but it is up to the local authority where those savings rest. Haringey Labour are going for soft targets, but I believe this drastic cut to services for older people is a very poor decision. We should protect our most vulnerable not close services they cherish.
“Labour’s financial mismanagement nationally got the country into this mess and locally Labour has made it worse.”
Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Health and Adult Social Services spokesperson adds:
“It is often said that the mark of a civilised society is how we look after our older residents. The Labour Council is not prioritising its use of the £182 million of government funding towards the services that many older people rely on. These services should not be the first target of Labour’s cuts.
“The cuts at day centres, luncheon clubs and drop-in centres represent 0.2% of the Council’s central government funding yet the Council are suggesting that, in the remaining 99.8% of the funding, there is nothing else they could cut instead of these services.”
Published and promoted by C. Jenkinson on behalf of Haringey Liberal Democrats, both at 62 High Street, N8 7NX and by S. Drage on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at Unit 1, Streatham Business Centre, 1 Empire Mews, SW16 2EH.
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