5,000 say: 'Don't axe centres for elderly'

John Phillips PENSIONERS gathered 5,000 signatures in three days in a bid to stop one of six remaining Age Concern activity centres closing down. They enjoy line dancing, snooker and bingo at the Active Age centre in High Road, Chadwell Heath, and collected the signatu

John Phillips

PENSIONERS gathered 5,000 signatures in three days in a bid to stop one of six remaining Age Concern activity centres closing down.

They enjoy line dancing, snooker and bingo at the Active Age centre in High Road, Chadwell Heath, and collected the signatures last week to try to halt its proposed closure, which was described by Conservative group leader, Cllr Terry Justice, as a "tragedy".

Kathleen Waghorn, 77, of Rose Lane, Chadwell Heath, said: "It's very sad. We're all very down. It's awful news. What are they doing to us?


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"They're closing all the homes, all the centres. We're trying to keep active. Someone has got to help."

Age Concern Barking and Dagenham could lose a fifth of its 150-strong workforce after unveiling plans to shut all six of its Active Age centres, which are used by hundreds and staffed by a total of 11 employees.

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A further 22 jobs are under threat as the charity consults on plans to:

* Close its White House HQ in Green Lane, Dagenham, and relocate to its Dagenham office in Church Street.

* Close its Fanshawe day care centre in Barnmead Road, Dagenham.

* Move its Reflections and Memory Lane dementia services to one new combined centre.

Age Concern chief executive Claire Ramm said the charity was going through "a painful process" after council contracts stopped and rent subsidies were slashed.

Threatened staff are devastated, but Mrs Ramm said the charity could not spend �100,000 a year on the Active Age centres indefinitely.

She added: "We would like the service to continue in the future and the consultation process with staff and club members is an opportunity to look at all the options, such as self-management or increasing member subscription fees."

Cllr Justice, of Chadwell Heath ward, said: "The centre is an extremely important part of the local community. It would be a tragedy if through financial reasons it had to close down.

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