MP Featherstone’s “hypocritical” fight for day centre
THE fight to save a Crouch End day centre for the elderly has turned into a political bust-up.
Up to 100 pensioners attend the centre at Abyssinia Court in Weston Park – enjoying companionship and activities.
But it is set to be axed by Haringey Council in a bid to save a �50,000 chunk of the �85million of savings it needs to make over three years.
The decision is now under consultation and Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone has joined residents and supporters in trying to save the centre by launching a petition to protect a host of elderly people’s services from the cuts.
But Labour council leader Claire Kober is accusing Ms Featherstone of hypocrisy for fighting cuts she says are necessitated by the coalition government’s actions.
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Tommy Stirling fears for the health of his mother Agnes should the centre close.
“My mother was in absolute tears when she heard,” he said. “As she’s 77, it’s a big change for her. Older people can get confused and upset and the possibility is they could die.
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“She really looks forward to it, meeting her friends, having her lunch, her bingo. They go there, have a good natter and go home feeling happy.
“Yes we need to make some cuts but not in care for the elderly. It needs to be cuts to bureaucrats – that would really make a saving – rather than hurting vulnerable people who need these places.”
Vulnerable persons spokeswoman for the Haringey Federation of Residents’ Associations, Sue Hessel, added: “In council terms, �50,000 is the cost of just one middling manager – but, to these 100 people, it is a lifeline which keeps them well and happy.
“All these people, now frail and elderly, had grown up in a world where sacrifice for the common good was a given. Everyone there will have paid their taxes during their long working lives.
“If Haringey Council, in our name, takes away their tiny day centre, what does that say about them? And what does it say about us?”
Ms Featherstone says the decision – made in December – to close 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 save just �425,000 or 0.2 per cent of the �182million in central government funding the council will receive next year.
“I understand the council needs to make tough decisions following reductions in government funding,” she said.
“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 lifelines like the Abyssinia luncheon club.”
But Cllr Kober said: “I think it smacks of hypocrisy and I think it’s cynical – with the harshest local government settlement in living memory and with Lynne serving in that government – for her to stand up to a local authority council and say we are making soft cuts.’’
Cllr Kober said that Ms Featherstone had failed to meet with the council since the financial settlement despite being invited to do so by the leader.
“I think her time would be better spent trying to work within her own government to make the case for Haringey rather than launching petitions against the council,” she added.
The Lib Dem petition can be found at http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/saveolderpeoplesservices.