Another week, another list of community services facing closure in the Lancaster district.
Children’s centres, homeless accommodation, libraries, older people’s day centres and a mental health unit all face closure or relocation as cuts within local government and mental health continue to bite. Buses, museums and hundreds of jobs are already on the line as Lancashire County Council decides today, Thursday, November 26, what it must do to balance its books following huge central government cuts.
A petition to save Lancaster’s at risk Judges’ Lodgings Museum had been signed by nearly 5,000 people yesterday.
Under the county council proposals, eight centres providing county council funded buildings would close out of a current 22 across the district.
And Adactus Housing, which runs Oak Tree House in Lancaster, said 23 previously homeless people in the city would find themselves back on the streets if their funding is cut.
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust has also announced this week that it will close its 22-bed Moss View mental health rehabilitation unit next month just a year and a half after it opened.
County Coun Gina Dowding, who represents Lancaster Central, said she was “very unhappy” about the proposals but added that local authority funding cuts are so severe that services have to be reviewed.
The county council has stressed that it would look to merge services under one roof – with four areas in the district – Lancaster Central, Morecambe and Heysham, Lancaster Coast and Lancaster Rural each getting one council run community hub.
In Lancaster Central, proposals are to close two out of the six services under review which are Firbank and Lune Park Children’s Centre, Vale View Day Centre for older people, Lancaster Central Library, Barton Road Young People’s Centre and Lancaster Registrars.
In Morecambe and Heysham the proposal is to close two of 10 existing centres which are Poulton Children’s Centre, Morecambe Library, Westgate Children’s Centre, Balmoral Children’s Centre, Lancaster CAPSS (Sefton Drive), Heysham Children’s Centre and YPC, Heysham Library, Lancaster and Morecambe Disability Day Services (Thorpe Avenue), Ryelands Young People’s Centre and Morecambe Registrars.
Lancaster Coast will lose all but one of its four centres – The Carnforth Hub Children’s Centre and YPC, Bolton-le-Sands Library, Carnforth Library and Silverdale Library.
In Lancaster rural, either Halton library or Galgate Children’s Centre will close.
Supported housing project Oak Tree House in West Road was completed in March this year.
It provides a home and support for 23 vulnerable people who are homeless or have been rough sleeping.
Adactus says it has spent four years working with the county council’s strategic housing/homeless team to develop a scheme which it identified.
The project was funded with £790,000 of government grant and £1.9m private funding.
Liz Hunter, head of supported housing at Adactus said: “We believe the cabinet members may not be fully aware that the services facing the chop are crucial front line services for people who are homeless, fleeing domestic violence, young homeless people and those with mental health issues.”
Adactus said the service could not continue without the contracted financial support from the council of £223,000 per year, which is under review.
A spokesman added: “It will be impossible to find alternative accommodation for all 23 residents, these residents will once again find themselves street homeless; and what a huge waste of public money.”
David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale said the county council had nearly £500m of reserves in the bank, but Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said most of it would be used to balance the books over the next few years.
Mr Morris said: “It’s the most heinous politics at play yet again from a Labour led authority scaremongering that their inept spending decisions when in government are meaning they now have to live within their means.
“This is from a council whose Chief Executive earns £64,000 a year more than the Prime Minister, and has three additional officers who earn more than him, according to a report by the Taxpayers Alliance.
“The council also have a colossal almost half a billion in reserves. I think it is time for the council to get to grips with their budgets but not at the expense of my constituents.”
But Jennifer Mein said Mr Morris was “out of touch” with reality, and that the council would be left with just £36m in reserves after the cuts were made.
She added: “These are relentless cuts year after year coupled with increasing demand for older peoples’ and childrens’ services.
“People voted in this government in May knowing that the cuts will continue and this is what it means for people in Lancashire.”