Liberal Democrats meet luncheon club heroes and call for Council to do more

Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr David Winskill with luncheon club users at Woodside House, Wood Green.To meet the local heroes who have kept a local luncheon club open despite loss of Council funding, Lynne Featherstone MP and Councillor David Winksill this week, visited Woodside House in Wood Green.

The visit included talking with luncheon club users about how they have managed to keep the Tuesday club going despite the complete cut in funding by the Labour Council last year. Whilst the club is now run by volunteers, it no longer provides hot meals or personal or medical help due to the lack of permanent staff. Uncertainty remains as to whether the current service will be able to keep going without more help.

Local Liberal Democrats have recently unearthed £1.5million that has been left unspent in the Council’s Older People’s Budget this year. This has raised serious questions as to why drop-in centres, day centres and luncheon clubs (like those in Woodside House) have closed if funding is still available. Only two of Hornsey and Wood Green’s four luncheon clubs have managed to stay open, leaving many older people in the borough without this essential lifeline.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“I am so impressed with these local heroes who have soldiered on to keep the Woodside luncheon club open, despite the loss of funding last year. But it’s been tough for them, they are now running a much reduced service and the future of the club is uncertain without cash to keep it going.

“Luncheon clubs are cheap to run, but give so much back, both to the individual and society at large. A little would go such a long way, and Haringey’s older people deserve to get their luncheon clubs back.”

Liberal Democrat Adult Social Services spokesperson Councillor David Winskill adds:

“It’s frankly appalling that the Labour Council has cut so fast and deep that £1.5million for older people’s services remain unspent this year. The money could have gone to keep luncheon clubs in the borough open. It’s clear from speaking to club users here today, that this service is loved and treasured, and sometimes the only opportunity some older people have to get out and meet other people.

“I am urging this Labour Council to put some money back into services that were cut last year to help support this very vulnerable group. The luncheon clubs are too important for Haringey’s older people and I hope that Labour Councillors will agree to my suggestions.”

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 and visit 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.”

Diwali celebrated at Woodside House

Local Liberal Democrats attended the 14th Annual ‘I Can Care’ Diwali celebrations last Friday (9th October 2009) at Woodside House and vowed to continue their support for the charity.

Last year Labour-run Haringey Council planned to force ‘I Can Care’, a charity that gives welfare advice and provides computer, yoga and English classes for elderly Asian residents, to relocate in a £12million project to build a new Council chamber.

After a sustained campaign by local residents and Liberal Democrats, Haringey Council was forced to shelve plans and postpone the project.

Cllr Robert Gorrie, Leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, comments:

“I am so glad that we are able to be here, joining ‘I Can Care’ in their fourteenth Diwali celebration, twelve months on from Haringey Council’s welcome u-turn.

“Thank you to Raj and all who continue to provide this invaluable community lead service for elderly Asian women in the local area.”

Cllr John Oakes, Bounds Green, adds:

“It is about time that Haringey Council made up its mind on the future of Woodside House and ‘I Can Care’. It is unfair that, at a time of the Festival of Lights, we are still kept in the dark on the future of ‘I Can Care’.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“We will continue to fight to ensure this marvellous community group has the right support and facilities, so it continues to be a success for its members.”

Liberal Democrat's criticise Labour's last minute attempt to gag community group

Liberal Democrats have condemned Haringey Council’s last-ditch attempt to stop Asian Older women’s user-group ‘I Can Care’ addressing the Full Council on Monday night by saying its £12 million plan to develop Woodside House is now “on hold”.

Council officials, backed up by Labour members at the meeting, tried to dissuade members’ of ‘I Can Care’ from presenting their deputation saying that it was no longer needed. Around 50 elderly members and 60 residents attended the deputation. However questions remain over how long the £12 million decision to move the Civic Centre will stay “on hold”. This uncertainty puts into further doubt the future of community groups and the luncheon club users who have been delivering services for over 20 years at Woodside House.

Liberal Democrats criticised Haringey Council for failing to notify ‘I Can Care’ chairman Raj Doshi of the delay in the Woodside house project until yesterday – although a press statement was issued by the Council last Friday. Haringey Council also failed to clarify many of the points raised by the deputation.

I Can Care’s 400 members, who currently meet in Woodside House, are worried about their future accommodation, and say Haringey Council has failed to offer a viable and safe alternative.

To date Haringey Council has spent £250,000 using external contractors on the Woodside House development but failed to consult local stakeholders fully.

Cllr John Oakes, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Community Involvement, commented:

“I think Haringey’s last-minute trick shows that it will go to any lengths to silence the community groups it says it supports if they start sticking up for themselves, or happen to mention an awkward truth. This little episode underlines Haringey’s real dislike of consultation and discussion.”

Labour forced to support Liberal Democrat view on proposed £12m Civic Centre expenditure

Haringey’s Labour Council has been forced to postpone its £12 million plan to move the borough’s Civic Centre.

On Friday last week Haringey Council announced that due to the economic crisis enveloping the Council it would be postponing the move to Woodside House. Liberal Democrats have welcomed the decision but continue to call for the plan to be scrapped rather than just delayed.

In July Liberal Democrats formally challenged the Labour Cabinet plan to move the Civic Centre for various reasons including the financial and property market downturns. Again in August the Liberal Democrats challenged the proposals at a special scrutiny meeting, but Labour confirmed their plans to spend the £12m. Now after spending more than £250,000 on external consultants Labour have decided to agree with the Liberal Democrat concerns and postpone the project.

Last week it emerged that Haringey Council had invested £37million in failed Icelandic banks.

Cllr Robert Gorrie, Liberal Democrat leader, commented:

“This was always a £12m project that would be under-used, expensive and a waste of taxpayers’ money. It is a shame that it has taken an economic crisis that was already clearly visible in July for Labour to realise its folly.

“What is needed now is for Haringey Council to recognise that this project needs to be scrapped rather than put on hold.

“It is welcome that Labour has come to its senses but this is a small number next to the £37 million at risk in the Icelandic banks. Hopefully it is not the start of a long list of spending cuts.”

Lynne Featherstone MP, added:

“This will come as a huge relief to the organisations that were being evicted from Woodside House. It is disappointing that it takes a global financial crisis for Labour to listen to what we have been telling them for some time – now is not the time to sell off property and embark on major building projects.”

Woodside House update

I’ve blogged before about Labour’s plans to sell off the Civic Centre and move to Woodside House, so just to highlight the new story over on my website about how Labour decided to go ahead with the plan:

Labour members of Haringey Council’s ‘watchdog’ committee have voted to ignore residents’ views and rejected wider democratic discussion on controversial plans to spend £12 million on a new Haringey Civic Centre…

Liberal Democrats, who forced the special Overview and Scrutiny meeting, pointed out that this was the largest discretionary capital expenditure since the Council’s ill fated Tech Refresh IT fiasco where a £10m budget became a £22m cost to residents. They criticised the decision for committing taxpayers’ money in the current uncertain economic climate and the lack of consultation of residents and current users of Woodside House.

You can read the full story on my website.

Labour steamroller through plans to spend £12m on a new Council chamber

Labour members of Haringey Council’s ‘watchdog’ committee have voted to ignore residents’ views and rejected wider democratic discussion on controversial plans to spend £12 million on a new Haringey Civic Centre.

The Labour dominated committee refused requests from the Liberal Democrats and local stakeholders to refer the decision for further discussion at a Full Council meeting and instead voted to rubber-stamp the Cabinet decision.

Liberal Democrats, who forced the special Overview and Scrutiny meeting, pointed out that this was the largest discretionary capital expenditure since the Council’s ill fated Tech Refresh IT fiasco where a £10m budget became a £22m cost to residents. They criticised the decision for committing taxpayers’ money in the current uncertain economic climate and the lack of consultation of residents and current users of Woodside House.

Cllr Robert Gorrie, Leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, commented:

“I am appalled by this flagrant extravagance, especially at a time when residents are struggling with rising rents, utility and food costs and just when the credit crunch is biting hardest.

“Labour have forced through a decision to spend £12m of residents money in order to produce what will likely be an empty white elephant that will serve to remind residents for years to come of the disaster that is Haringey Labour.

“This scheme has not had the examination that residents would expect for a scheme of this magnitude. Surely residents should be asked how they want £12 million of their money spent – yet Labour has once again ignored them and the hundreds of people who use the existing Woodside facilities will suffer as a result.”

Cllr David Winskill added:

“Overview and Scrutiny was an opportunity for Labour to have a look objectively at their decision to relocate the Civic Centre to Woodside House. There are clearly a host of uncertainties in the current plan and it would have made a great deal of sense for the Cabinet, particularly in the current uncertain housing market, to have taken a pause and ask officers to produce a more robust plan.

“I think that this will come back to haunt them in the coming years.”