Ten day centres face the axe as Southwark votes in ‘savage’ cuts

Southwark council has approved nearly £34 million cuts that could see 10 day centres close.

Plans were discussed last night to slash grants for all but three of the borough’s centres, leaving the remaining open ones as “hubs”. But after a stormy meeting, a temporary reprieve saw £500,000 allocated while a consultation was undertaken. However, their future is still uncertain.

Anood Al-Samerai, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, denounced the budget as a “miserable package of savage, unnecessary and cynical cuts”.

She said: “Our concern is this money will keep the centres going for six months. But when it runs out, it will mean the most vulnerable people in Southwark are no longer protected.” Labour voted through a budget that will see big cuts in children’s services, including £5.7 million from social care and safeguarding. There will be 500 jobs axed, although unions fear 1,000 could go.

Southwark is the hardest hit borough in cash terms, at £33.6million, by government grant reductions next year. Although finance chiefs expect cuts to be nearer £60 million.

Before the meeting a large group of protesters demonstrated outside the town hall to voice their anger. There was a heavy security presence and the public gallery was ticket-only in a bid to prevent scenes like last week in Islington where protesters were carried out by police.

Patsy Robinson, 49, attended with her brother Canute Binns, 62, who has learning difficulties. The centre Mr Binns attends every day, Black Elderly Group in Peckham, serves more than 250 people many of who are in their eighties and nineties and suffer from conditions ranging from strokes to dementia. Ms Robinson said: “These cuts will kill people and will affect us all. Many of the people attending the centre simply would not get out of the house otherwise and could be left for days without anyone knowing what has happened to them.”

Council leader Peter John said after the meeting: “It would be all too easy to turn around and say ‘sorry, we can’t deliver this, the government cuts are just too big’.

“We got elected on a strong manifesto of policies and we have set the budget tonight to reflect our determination to deliver them.”