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Battle is lost as doors close on ‘lifeline’ venue for the elderly

Final day for 50-year-old service as site is lined up for new homes development

31 January, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Irma Gomez outside the Drovers Centre for the final time

A COMMUNITY centre hailed as a lifeline for the elderly is set to close today (Friday) with its users preparing for a tearful farewell.

The Drovers Centre, in North Road, Holloway, has been open for more than 50 years providing a place for pensioners to meet, socialise and take part in activities.

Irma Gomez, who has been a spokeswoman for people dismayed at the centre’s imminent closure, told the Tribune they had “lost the battle”.

Of the 107 people who responded to the council’s consultation on the centre’s closure, 74 per cent said that they opposed it and more than half said it would have a “significant impact” on their level of social contact.

Age UK Islington has been running the services at a cost of about £150,000, a large chunk of this coming from the council’s adult social care budget. It is now deemed unviable.

Ms Gomez, 81, read out a speech outside the centre as she attended the venue for the last time, with a placard lamenting its closure.

She said: “The people spoke, but we were not listened to. There was a consultation, but what for? It was a waste of time, resources and of course money, the decision was already taken and we were ignored.

“Drovers was the right centre for the elderly people of Islington, it was spacious clean and had a beautiful calm garden, but most of all it had easy access by public transport. But not any more.”

The council gave the green light for the centre to be closed at a cabinet meeting in October with council documents stating that the site presents “an opportunity to develop much-needed housing”.

The government has cut Islington’s budget by more than 70 per cent since 2010, leading to about £250million in cuts and savings.

A spokeswoman for Age UK Islington said services would take place at six other community centres. She added: “We have been working with everyone who attends Drovers regularly to make sure that there are alternatives for them, and people to ensure that people receive the support they need to keep doing the activities which mean the most to them.”

Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s executive member for health and social care and deputy council leader, said: “We’re committed to supporting local residents to live full, active lives and we know how important it is for older people to be able to get out, access activities and keep up vital social connections.

“Unfortunately, the Drovers Centre building no longer provides the high quality, comfortable environment we want for our residents. And at a time of ongoing government cuts to council budgets, the costs of the extensive repairs and maintenance needed at the Drovers Centre would place extra pressure on the council’s already very stretched budgets.”

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