Haringey Labour forces through closure of older people’s drop-in centres

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.”

Haringey Labour Cabinet forced to review plans to cut Older People's Services

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.”

Haringey Liberal Democrats take stand on drop-in centres

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 urge cabinet member to change policy immediately on “disastrous” children’s centre plans

Liberal Democrats have called on cabinet member, Cllr Lorna Reith, to abandon Haringey Labour’s plan to drastically scale back provision of vital Children’s Centres. At a special ‘watchdog’ committee this week she faced overwhelming resistance to her proposals.  

On Wednesday (8th June 2011) the Overview and Scrutiny Committee rejected Labour’s proposals and sent the issue back to the cabinet member for reconsideration by next Thursday.

Heads of local schools and children’s centres united to oppose plans which would withdraw funding from children’s centres at Rokelsey, North Bank, Highgate and Tower Gardens, after the Liberal Democrats successfully referred the issue to the committee.

Cllr Rachel Allison highlighted the effects of the removal of vital preventative services, the need to have universal access to children’s centres across the borough and need to listen to the concerns raised, including those from Labour backbenchers and Labour MP David Lammy who are against the plans. 

Cllr Katherine Reece, Liberal Democrat Children’s spokesperson, comments:

“It’s time that Cllr Reith stopped rowing against the tidal wave of criticism that overwhelmingly shows that her plans will damage our local children’s welfare, upbringing and safety. The tide has turned and Cllr Reith should change her policy immediately to ensure we have a better system in place by September.”

Cllr Rachel Allison, who presented the Liberal Democrat call-in, added:

“It is clear that the schools and children’s centre managers – those who know how to run their services better than anyone – should have control over how the reduced money for their services is spent. Withdrawing services at North Bank, Highgate and Rokesley when they could be kept going with only small amounts of investment will be disastrous. I hope that we now see a change in direction.”

Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Deputy Chair of Overview and Scrutiny adds:

 “The presentations and contributions form school heads, governors, parents and others were well reasoned and involved no extra funding. It is clear that Cllr Reith, as long ago as 2008, had the opportunity to engage with these groups to find a sustainable funding regime. I hope she will listen to what Scrutiny said and go and fully engage with the Children’s Centre Alliance on a more appropriate and locally delivered model of service.”

586 residents back Liberal Democrat proposals to keep day centres open

Cllr David Winskill and Lynne Featherstone handing in the petition and consultation responseHaringey 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!”

Liberal Democrats meet Woodside luncheon club users in continued fight to save services for older people

Lynne Featherstone MP with concerned service users and providers at Woodside HouseAs part of the Liberal Democrat campaign to save Haringey’s older people’s day centres, drop-in centres and luncheon clubs, Liberal Democrats yesterday met with elderly residents at Woodside House.

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.”

Lynne Featherstone and local Liberal Democrats launch campaign on better access to GPs

Lynne Featherstone and Katherine Reece surveying a local resident in Stroud Green about her access to GPsHaringey Liberal Democrats have just launched a campaign to make sure residents living near the Borough boundary can access GPs in neighbouring boroughs.
The action comes after residents in Stroud Green have complained of not being allowed to register with GPs surgeries just over the border in Islington.
Last Friday, Lynne Featherstone MP, Stroud Green Cllr Katherine Reece and Health Spokesperson Cllr David Winskill launched a GP survey to hear from residents in Stroud Green about their access to GPs. The health campaign is also looking at access to NHS dentists and gathering residents’ opinions on the standard of local health services.
Local councillors Katherine Reece and Richard Wilson have already met with NHS Haringey who acknowledge that registering with a GP can be a serious problem for residents in Stroud Green.
Nationally the Liberal Democrats in government are pushing to give patients the right to choose to register with the GP they want, without being restricted by where they live.
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
“It’s ridiculous that residents on the north side of Stroud Green Road cannot always use GPs on the south side of the road due to bureaucratic wrangling.
“We are surveying residents in Stroud Green to find out just how bad the situation is, and will be bringing the results to health bosses.”
Stroud Green Councillor Katherine Reece adds:
“It’s great that Liberal Democrats in Government are working on changing the rules about where you can register for your GP. We want to do our bit here in Stroud Green.
“However Islington PCT is refusing to recognise there is a problem with cross-border GP access.  We hope this survey of local residents will change their minds and force them to work with GPs to widen access.”

Local MP asks residents for their stories on post office closures

Following the closure of local post offices two years ago, Lynne Featherstone MP has this week written to local residents asking them for their experiences of the effects of the closures.

The Liberal Democrat MP will put the stories to Post Office bosses at a special meeting of Haringey Council’s watchdog body on 5th July, and pass the evidence to the responsible Government Minister.

Any resident who would like to contribute with their story should either send an email to lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org or write to Lynne Featherstone MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“The closure of almost half of our post offices two years ago was devastating. I really believe it’s essential that local residents get to have a say on how this has affected their lives.

“Post Office bosses need to listen hard and make sure that they deal with any issues that local residents raise.”

Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Lead on Overview and Scrutiny adds:

“It is unlikely that in the present financial climate these Sub Post Offices will re-open.

“However the lessons of the effects that these closures have had on the community and business should not be forgotten and hopefully will be used to halt any further reduction in the network.”

Local MP demands urgent meeting with hospital boss after worrying news of merger

Following the recent news of a potential merger between the Whittington and the Royal Free Hospital Trusts, Lynne Featherstone MP has today demanded an urgent meeting with the Whittington Chief Executive to ensure local residents’ concerns are taken on board.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“I have today demanded an urgent meeting with the Whittington Chief Executive, to make sure local residents’ needs and concerns are at the heart of any debate about merging these two hospitals.

“Many local residents already have to travel long distances to get to their nearest hospital and I want to make it clear to the hospital bosses, that a further deterioration in service is unacceptable.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor David Winskill, Member of the Haringey’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, adds:

“For some time now, there has been a lot of concern about what the Darzi plans for London’s health services will actually mean.”

“Although there are some very good aspects, it seems that the full implications for our network of general hospitals have just not been thought through. This is a matter I will be pursuing through Scrutiny.”

Haringey Council to investigate digital aerial 'opt out' after action by Liberal Democrats

Haringey Council will now investigate the feasibility of an ‘opt out’ from the installation of new digital aerials scheme for local leaseholders. The success for the campaign led by leaseholder groups and Liberal Democrats came after a special meeting of Haringey Council’s ‘watchdog’ committee last week (1st October 2009) to hear concerns raised by Liberal Democrats.

The committee agreed that Homes for Haringey should report back on the possibility of an opt-out for leaseholders who do not want the new aerial system installed. Since Haringey Council started the scheme, many leaseholders have paid more than £1,000 for installation.

Liberal Democrats have welcomed the feasibility report but have said that they will not stop the campaign to get a better deal for local leaseholders and will continue to closely scrutinise the financial management of the Decent Homes project, which has come under increasing criticism.

Cllr Richard Wilson, who presented the Liberal Democrat ‘call-in’ last week, comments:

“Whilst we welcome this small step in the right direction it was disappointing that the Labour councillors, once again, rubberstamped this dubious cabinet decision.

“The Decent Homes programme and budget continues to be out of control. Agreed standards of work have been exceeded without finance in place, leaseholders have been ignored, and consultation has been non-existent.”

David Winskill, Liberal Democrat lead on the Overview and Scrutiny committee, adds:

“I was shocked at the lack of understanding of how this £198 million scheme has changed so much. Nobody seemed to know how Homes for Haringey had veered away from the specifications agreed by Haringey Council in 2005 and, more worryingly, nobody seemed to grasp that this may have an effect on the standard or amount of homes that will be renovated under Decent Homes.”

Lynne Featherstone MP, adds:

“The way in which leaseholders have been treated is a symptom of the failure by Haringey Council to get value for money from this project. I’m glad efforts from local leaseholders and my Liberal Democrat colleagues are making progress, but we will not stop there.”

Note: Local Liberal Democrats have set up a petition at http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/aerialscampaign