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Pensioners ‘so sad’ as Holloway community centre is axed

Town Hall says services will be provided elsewhere and site can be council housing

25 October, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Irma Gomez: ‘They think we are bits of furniture’

PENSIONERS were left dismayed after the council rubber-stamped plans to close a much-loved community centre despite an overwhelming majority of people opposing the plan.

Irma Gomez, 81, stood outside the Town Hall in Upper Street as the temperatures dipped to seven degrees last Thursday, calling for the council to reverse its plan to close the Drovers Centre in North Road, Holloway.

Of the 107 people who responded to the council’s consultation on the closure of the Drovers Centre, 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.

Ms Gomez said: “It is a very, very important centre. There are people who rely on the Drovers Centre who can hardly read or write.”

She added: “These people will be lost without the centre. I am trying to speak up for the people who don’t have a voice.”

The centre, which is run by Age UK Islington, offers a variety of activities for elderly residents, from yoga to table tennis and a lounge for users to watch TV and eat lunch.

The council gave the go ahead to closure plans at a meeting of executive members on Thursday.

Ms Gomez has been at the forefront of the campaign to stop the Sotheby Mews Day Centre in Highbury from closing, with services moved more than a mile away to a newly built centre at Highbury Roundhouse.

The Drovers Centre

“We are all so sad to hear that Drovers is closing,” she said. “Their own consultation found that most people want to save the centre, but then they still say they are going to close it. I don’t understand.”

As the Tribune previously reported, the building that Drovers is in requires £170,000 worth of repairs and an overhaul of the heating system.

Age UK decided to pull their services from the centre earlier in the year. A closing date was then set for January 2020.

The council looked at the possibility of relocating the services provided at Drovers into centres and halls around the borough.

But many of the elderly people who use the centre would struggle with a dispersed service, Ms Gomez said.

She added: “They think we are like bits of furniture that can be moved around whenever they want to.”

Labour councillor Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s cabinet member for health and social care, and deputy leader at the Town Hall, said:

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

She added: “Our partners Age UK Islington have been clear that they no longer believe running the Drovers Centre is the best way for them to have the most positive impact and want to direct their resources to the range of other services they provide for older people in the borough, in order to reach the most people in the most effective way.

“We also believe the site of the Drovers Centre can help to deliver badly-needed new council homes for local people, which will play a part in addressing the housing crisis facing Islington.”


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