BATTLING pensioners have launched a campaign to save a cherished “home from home” in South Tyneside.
There is anger among dozens of elderly people about council plans to axe the popular Queens Road Day Centre in Saxon Way, Jarrow, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
The shock news comes just days after the Gazette revealed plans to close three day centres in South Shields and Boldon Colliery.
There are fears more than 100 pensioners, who rely on the centre for social contact, will be left isolated if the building is closed and services moved elsewhere, to save money.
A petition to save the building has been launched, with support from former Labour councillors Maisie Stewart and Joyce Phipps.
South Tyneside MPs David Miliband and Stephen Hepburn have been pressed to support the pensioners’ protest.
Old folk are bitterly opposed to tentative plans to move the various groups to Jarrow Community Centre, which they claim is “totally unsuitable” for some disabled members.
Catherine Findlay, acting chairwoman of the centre’s management committee, said: “I think many of our members will feel lonely, lost and isolated if the building closes.
“We even offered to increase our rent from £5,000 to £15,000 a year, but the council didn’t seem interested.”
Mrs Stewart, a former long-term councillor for the Bede ward on South Tyneside Council, opened the Queens Road Day Centre in 1982.
She said: “I’m very passionate about this centre and I would hate to see it closed.
“I don’t think Jarrow Community Centre would work. They would have to create another floor for the Queens Road members – plus there are other issues with ramps and disabled access.”
Mrs Phipps, a former councillor for the Monkton ward, said: “The centre is a lifeline for members.
“Many of the people who use Queens Road live alone, and the centre is very important to them.”
Coun Emma Lewell-Buck, the council’s lead member for adult, social care and support services and other council officers met with the centre’s management committee last month.
Mrs Findlay, for the centre, said: “The impression we got is that the council wants to close Queens Road Day Centre to save money and move us to Jarrow Community Centre, which is totally unsuitable, in so many ways.”
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “The lead member and council officers met with the management of Queens Road Day Centre and discussed the possibility of moving to an alternative venue, to support them in the most effective way in the future. We are looking into the logistics of this.
“The centre’s management committee raised a series of questions relating to this option, and we will respond to each of them.
“There is certainly no intention to close the social centre; we are exploring ways of continuing to deliver it more efficiently, which may mean relocating it to a different building.”