On the Tuesday of December 8th the Vauxhall Centre in Norwich was filled with around fifty concerned individuals eager to listen to two county councillors, David Harwood and Harold Bodmer, try and defend the councils decision to look into closing two day centres in Norwich and two day services in Hempnal.
The centres that are in danger of being closed down, the Essex and Silver Rooms, and the two day services hosted at Hempnal Mill currently provide community and sense of well being for its elderly and vulnerable users- enabling them to socialise and build relationships with people they may otherwise never have met, as well as also enabling users to partake in a variety of activities.
These services are currently provided for a relatively small amount of money, which includes funding for transport from their homes and decent meals, personal care, entertainment and therapeutic recreation, all given by a dedicated and much respected team of day centre workers.
It is the idea of losing these services that has lead to people organising in an attempt to keep the centres open. This public meeting held by the pressure group Save Norwich Day Centres For Older People led to apublic verbal lynching of the representatives trying to legitimize the closure of the day centres.
The councillors who had drawn the short straw presumably knew that they had to face a room full of rather peeved people- with the elderly in attendance obviously being in a more volatile mood.
A hastily made attempt to explain that
“no final decision had been made, and that if it had, which it had not….”
was spat out stating that any closures would not be made because of financial reasons- despite the ongoing recession.
They also went on to argue that- while no final decision had been made, money was of course not the issue and no savings would be made from the closures- but that keeping the day centres open would add 15% to council tax thanks to the Labour Government…
It was at this point that any semblance of a coherent argument disappeared as the dastardly duo scraped for any argument that they thought might appease the increasingly anger fuelled audience. At one moment, mid-heckle, it was even argued that the kitchens in one of the day centres needed urgent maintenance and therefore the day centre would be expensive to get up to a suitable standard. There would need to be a full re-build and more importantly new Health and Safety Regulations deemed the gasworks in the building were unfit and dangerous.
The fact that dodgy gasworks in the premises hasn’t shut down the centre immediately speaks volumes.
When the chair of the meeting, Ian Gibson, President of the Norwich and District Carers Forum, opened up the debate to questions, the councillors appeared to have given up the ghost, refusing to guarantee that the council would not profit from the sale of the Essex and Silver Rooms. The sense of anger in the meeting was palpable at this stage, with several people stating that they simply would not trust a word out of the politicians mouths.
Of course various people in the crowd attempted to score political points, with a Labour county councillor standing at the back of the room making snide comments yet, unsurprisingly, contributed very little of actual substance. In fact every third questioner seemed to be a councillor or some sort of political representative who felt the need to declare to everyone in the room this fact at every possible opportunity!
After the meeting was drawn to a close, the various Trotskyite group members in attendance attempted to hijack the healthy anger from the meeting, standing around the exit moronically attempting to flog their dull, dry rags to those leaving the meeting hall for a biscuit and hot cup of tea.
In conclusion, the meeting was useful in highlighting the councils intentions and that they are clearly not to be trusted. However it was heartening to see that we are not the only ones that truly acknowledge this.
What was evidently and visibly clear from the performance is that people really want to protect the community and services provided by the Silver and Essex Rooms and there appears to be a lot of potential militancy, particularly from the older generation- who it seems are prepared to fight their elected representatives every step of the way.
AS OF TODAY THE 12 WEEK PUBLIC ‘CONSULTATION’ IS UNDER WAY