Housing chief confronts centre protest councillor
29 September, 2017 — By Emily Finch
Councillors Diarmaid Ward and Caroline Russell
THE Town Hall’s housing chief clashed with a Green Party councillor during a protest against the closure of an elderly people’s day centre.
Councillor Diarmaid Ward questioned the Greens’ Caroline Russell’s motives for joining protestors fighting the closure of Sotheby Mews Day Centre in Highbury.
He accused her of using the campaign to promote her party while Cllr Russell said councillors repeatedly cancelled meetings to discuss with users the future of the centre.
“We have people here who want to be able to discuss what this decision means for them,” said Cllr Russell.
She had joined the large group of protestors on the steps of the town hall ahead of a full council meeting. They sang and waved banners calling for the centre to be saved.
The over-65s say they were not consulted on the planned closure and that Town Hall chiefs failed to visit them to discuss the move.
When Cllr Ward tried to address protestors, he was shouted down by megaphone-wielding Irma Gomez, 80, who warned: “You will never close Sotheby centre. We will keep this centre open.”
Pensioners fear they will not receive the same services at the new Highbury Roundhouse community centre a mile-and-half away which already houses a youth centre.
Councillors say the move will see much-needed social housing built on the Sotheby Mews site. The new centre will offer a full range of services, they point out.
During the full council meeting that followed the protest Cllr Ward agreed to meet centre users.