OAPs celebrate after councillors put on hold plans to axe sheltered housing schemes in Barking and Dagenham

Pensioners are celebrating a victory today after council chiefs agreed to shelve plans to decommission their shelter housing schemes for a year.

Senior citizens furious at proposals to do away with sheltered housing wardens packed Barking Town Hall in an unprecedented mass turnout last night.

The elderly residents spoke against proposals to cut the sheltered housing budgets by half a million pounds, which could have potentially led to the decommissioning of half the 28 schemes in Barking and Dagenham.

After a protracted debate, Labour councillors agreed to put the planned cutbacks on hold and consult the senior citizens for a year.

Pensioner Brian Houghton, 74, of Birch Gardens, Dagenham, said: “It’s a reprieve. We have 12 months’ grace.

“They didn’t expect as many people to turn out. There were 200 people in the town hall and there has been so many petitions.”

Barking and Dagenham Council said the savings would have been achieved by transferring funding from the adult social care budget to the housing budget.

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Campaigner Julie Bussey, 54, fought to ensure her 79-year-old mum Sheila Langham kept her home at Shipton and Seabrook housing complex in Dagenham.

She said: “It’s positive and negative. I’m pleased she’s going to have another year. It’s a victory and a reprieve.”

The proposals stated that some of the three-year �500,000 savings could be achieved by doing away with wardens.

Pensioners have likened the 25 or so staff as a “lifeline” as they check on them once a day and help to refer them to social and health services.

One pensioner Joyce Bennett, 63, said: “If it wasn’t for the wardens we wouldn’t have quality of life.

“Leave them alone and get on with your work.”

Senior citizens fired question after question at members of the health and adult services select committee at the Town Hall on the Town Square.

Housing cabinet member, Cllr Phil Waker, said the sheltered housing service needed to be reformed but also pledged to build more bungalows for the pensioners.

Council deputy leader, Cllr Rocky Gill, moved to put on hold the proposed savings for a year and his motion was endorsed by the committee members.

The committee added the savings would have been achieved by transferring funding from the adult social care budget to the housing budget of Barking and Dagenham Council.