Northumberland day care centres axed
Controversial plans to axe seven cherished day centres in Northumberland were rubber-stamped last night.
Northumberland County Council voted to close the facilities used as meeting places by elderly and disabled people at Amble, Blyth, Bedlington, Haltwhistle, Hexham, Ponteland and Prudhoe.
In a named poll at its meeting at Morpeth's County Hall, the council voted 46 to 11 in favour of proposals to close its centres, which are used by around 300 people every week.
The authority says the facilities are under-used and it is closing them to cut costs and is instead to offer users and the many others who need assistance personalised budgets to spend on their preferred method of care.
It says anyone who wants to continue receiving traditional, building-based day care will be able to do so via other providers - voluntary and independent agencies.
The council has came up with a range of alternative provision in each of the affected areas. Hundreds of people had signed petitions calling for the seven centres to be saved, claiming they offer elderly users a vital chance to meet friends and give relatives an important break from looking after them.
The meeting was attended by a band of centre users, carers and union leaders who vented their anger at councillors after the vote was taken. Thomas Mosey, 80, of Newcastle Road, Newsham, Blyth, has used the town's Lyndon House site for around five years, having previously been moved out of its Tynedale House by the council.
He branded the decision "disgusting", "absolute shameless" and "shocking". The council had been due to take a decision on the centres at its meeting in September, but opted to defer after Conservative and Labour opposition councillors joined forces in a bid to drum up interest from potential providers in running the sites in Amble, Bedlington and Blyth.
But last night, the Labour group hit out at the Tories for now backing the closures and for tabling an amendment with the Lib Dems which it claimed showed little change to the proposals put forward in September.
Labour members asked why the council could not offer a mix of centres and alternative care. They also accused the Lib Dems of using the personalised budgets as "a smokescreen" which allows them to axe day centres.
Coun Deirdre Campbell said: "The public are not silly. Personalised budgets weren't an excuse to close the homes.
"I just can not believe you are back in here today and you are still intent on taking away a brilliant service that is used by the elderly.
"I would say to people - do not get old the Lib Dems will crucify you.
"I think you have declared war on the elderly. The one thing you have not got to do in Northumberland is get old."
The Lib Dems had called on the council to make the decision to end uncertainty for centre users.
Coun Simon Reed said: "We have to modernise and transform our service. We have to give people more choice."
His party also stated that no centres will be closed until alternate provision has been arranged for users.
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