Sotheby Mews Day Centre, Islington, north London, is typical of the thousands of crucial services the Tory cuts will destroy.
It is run by Age Concern Islington and funded by Islington Council until April 2011. It will close if the council withdraws the £166,000 a year funding after the completion of a review in November.
Henry Bourner, a 77-year-old retired electrician and trade unionist helps run the centre. He told Socialist Worker—“We aren’t giving up without a fight.
“We held a meeting the place was packed. One woman said she would chain herself to the building to stop it from closing.
“The grant allows us to organise transport, lunches and pay for the utilities—we already fundraise to pay for other things,”
Henry told Socialist Worker, pointing to the televisions in the day room, chairs and garden which was refurbished through money fundraised by the pensioners—all £50,000.
The council and Age Concern say they are concerned with the low level of centre usage.
But on the day Socialist Worker visited the day room was nearly full and there were groups of people sitting in the main hall drinking tea and chatting while an art class took place. “For some people the hot meal they get here is the only one they will have all day—how can the council take that away?” Henry asked.
Edna has been coming to the centre for 20 years. “It’s going to be hard if they close us,” she told Socialist Worker. “This place has been a godsend since my husband died. What do the council want us to do—walk the streets, travel around on buses? Winter is coming, we need a place so we aren’t just sitting at home vegetating.”
Gladys, treasurer for the group, told Socialist Worker: “I help look after my brother in law—so coming here is fantastic, I get away and have some time to myself. The Council say we can relocate somewhere else—well we don’t want to.”
There was anger in the room as people talked about the closure. “We’ve worked our whole life”, Henry said. “We’ve done our bit for society—and is this how we get repaid?”
Gladys added, “You see these golden handshakes and fat pensions that go to some executives and city bosses, but we get treated like this, it isn’t right.”
Pat runs a charity shop in the centre to help raise funds. She said. “I help to find clothes for people who struggle themselves. I found one man two new pairs of jeans, which I took up for him. Where will he go now?”
Councillor Janet Burgess, executive member for health and adult social care, told Socialist Worker that, “No decision has been taken about the future of Sotheby Mews. Every part of the council is under pressure from the government cuts being forced upon us.
We are determined to prioritise services for the most vulnerable and we’ll be looking at all options for future provision of adult day care.”
But for many at the centre this is not enough. Blaming the Tories while implementing cuts that hit the most vulnerable is a cowardly act by Labour councillors.
Islington Hands Off Our Public Services is supporting the campaign. Henry said, “We are kicking up a fuss—at the anti-cuts meeting last week we got fantastic support from trade unionists. We aren’t giving up and need all the support we can get.”