"Councillors need to look at themselves in the mirror and get a conscience…" Paul Kelly
A packed meeting at the Swinton Royal British Legion heard Salford Pensioners Association accuse Salford Council of `murdering' its elderly citizens with plans to withdraw funding from day care centres across the city.
George Tapp, secretary of the Salford Pensioners Association, quoted figures showing that, nationally, 25,400 pensioners died of cold related illnesses in just three months of last winter because they couldn't afford to put the heating on.
The one place they can go to keep warm, get a hot meal and break the cycle of loneliness and depression, he explained, was the day care centres which are now under threat.
"Salford Council was the first council to open day care centres, it was proud of its achievement and now it wants to withdraw funding" he added "This Council is now killing Salford people…it's literally murder."
The Swinton meeting was called by public sector trade union, Salford City UNISON, to unite day care centre workers, people who use the day care centres and the wider community who don't want to see these front line services closed.
UNISON's Ameen Hadi set out the current Salford Council options which are being consulted upon…
Option 1 will see two day care centres closed (Craig Hall in Irlam and Humphrey Booth in Ordsall), with the loss of 40 jobs and 200 service users `removed by reassessment'.
Option 2 will see the closure of three day care centres (Craig Hall in Irlam and Humphrey Booth in Ordsall, plus St George's in Charlestown), with the loss of 60 jobs and 300 service users `removed by reassessment'.
"Neither of these are palatable to the unions or the community" said Ameen, giving the example of Craig Hall which specialises in day care for those who have learning difficulties and cannot be replicated anywhere else.
To huge applause, Ameen added that Salford Concil's decisions are all about choices… "They could choose to spend money on the vulnerable or choose to spend money on things like Media City…This Council must know they are in for fight over this."
Speaker after speaker in the packed Swinton British Legion stood up to oppose Salford Council's plans, including a worker at Craig Hall who said some parents of those who use the centre hadn't even had letters about the consultation over its closure… "People out there don't even know that their service is being taken away from them and it's wrong" she explained "Those who go to day centres, go for a life. Without them they don't have a life."
Her sentiments were echoed by Bridget, a carer who spoke passionately about her brother… "Craig Hall is his life" she explained "I get more from there than social services. He wants Craig Hall – I think we should fight for it!"
Gail Skelly, of Ordsall Community Arts, who came to the meeting on a coach full of local people campaigning against the withdrawing of funding from Humphrey Booth, said that Salford Council had made a "big mistake" picking on Ordsall… "It's a family orientated place and we won our fight to save our library from being moved…We've lost a youth centre manager, a park ranger and others but now people can see it; they can see that 500 yards from Ordsall is Media City and all that is going on there."
Keeping to the theme of Media City and the £20million BBC Philharmonic Orchestra sponsorship, Paul Kelly said that "councillors need to look at themselves in the mirror and get a conscience…If they want to create jobs, get young people looking after old people…"
And Alice Searle, of the Salford Pensioners Association, argued that "It's not their money, it's our money – we should have a say. This is totally political, it's about unpicking the Welfare State…but for us it's about quality of life – we don't want people to die of depression, of cold, of loneliness…it's our money we should make sure they do what we want…"
Steve North, Branch secretary of Salford City UNISON, explained that the Council and, in particular Councillor John Warmisham, Lead Member for Adult Services, doesn't make a final decision until 20th February, and the meeting endorsed four campaigning actions leading up to this…
11th February – a community day of action
13th February – a lobby of Salford Labour Group meeting
15th February – a protest on the day Salford Council sets its budget
20th February – a protest at Crompton House when Councillor Warmisham makes his final decision on the future of day care centres in the city.
Further details of all these actions to follow. In the meantime there's petitions and leaflets circulating. You can download the petition jpg from the enclosed photo or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll send you one.
Next Saturday 28th January 12-2pm, there's another meeting at St Clement's Church, Grove Street, to oppose the withdrawing of funding from Humphrey Booth Day Care Centre in Ordsall. All welcome.
See also previous feature on day care centres here.
Photos by Steven Speed