Anger over council ‘sell-off’ of Crouch End community services

Red Gables family centre is seen by many residents as summing up the history of community services in Crouch End.

For decades this Victorian house in Haslemere Road was used as a base to support children, first as an orphanage, and later as a nursery and family centre.

But now it is on the market to the highest bidder.

Long a symbol of Haringey Council’s involvement in the area, its pending sale has sparked criticism from those who see it as the final lot in “Crouch End’s great sell off”.

Community campaigner Sue Hessel said in a letter to the Ham&High this week: “The sale of Red Gables family centre will be a symbolic moment for Crouch End - it will complete Haringey Council’s great sell off of our community facilities.

“For me it is the final proof that Haringey Council’s only interest in our facilities has been their land value.

“The council just doesn’t have a feeling for our history. We are treated as a cash cow.”

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Crouch End was once the nerve centre of the old borough of Hornsey.

The Grade II listed Hornsey Town Hall, now better known as a set for TV programmes including The Hour than for providing services, stands as a looming testament to this history.

Services began being moved out of the town hall in 1987 to Haringey Civic Centre in Wood Green, now the civic heart of the borough, beginning a process which some see as the dismantling of a visible council presence west of the railway line.

While Hornsey Library has been retained and turned into a pilot “hub” for council services, Crouch End’s children’s centres have faced deep funding cuts while an elderly drop-in centre at Abyssinia Court in Weston Park has been axed.

Crouch End Liberal Democrat Cllr David Winskill said: “Haringey, like many London boroughs, is faced with some really difficult decisions.

“But sometimes in the west we feel there is a knee-jerk reaction, that services in the west are seen as a bit of a luxury while services in the east are much more needed. This is rarely the case.”

This sense of a split is underpinned by a political divide – every councillor elected to Crouch End in 2010 and surrounding wards in Highgate, Muswell Hill, and Alexandra Park, was a Liberal Democrat.

Haringey Council however has remained ruled by the Labour majority.

Mrs Hessel, who runs several campaigns to protect services for the vulnerable, said there is a feeling that “ever since the powerbase shifted from Hornsey to Haringey, we have lost our political voice”.

There are hopes that the Government’s new localism bill will mean that residents will be given greater power to block councils from selling buildings.

In the meantime there are fears the sale of Red Gables will leave more vulnerable people without community services.

Cllr Joe Goldberg, Haringey finance boss, insisted the council was committed to maintaining visible services in the west.

He said: “We have got more libraries in the west than in the east and one of our key pledges was not to close a single library and to modernise them because they represent a core service that represents local government.

“To equate Red Gables with a greater abandonment in the west is perverse.

“In the election we stood on a platform of one borough, once council, and that remains true.”