MONMOUTHSHIRE County Council needs to stop “dragging its feet” and reopen a day centre for vulnerable adults after an expert review found “ample evidence” to bring it back into use, senior Conservatives have said.
Tudor Street day centre in Abergavenny has been closed since the start of the Covid lockdown in March 2020, leaving people with learning disabilities feeling isolated, cut-off from friends and “abandoned”.
In November last year, the council’s cabinet tried to permanently close the centre – which had been the local base for its My Day, My Life support service – without consultation and sell off the site for affordable housing before tougher flooding rules that could limit its redevelopment potential came into force.
It prompted a furious backlash and protest from service users, their families and supporters, which saw council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby admit “we got the process wrong” and issue a public apology during a meeting in January.
The council also confirmed no decision on the future of Tudor Street centre would be taken until after an independent review of the My Day, My Life service in north and central Monmouthshire had been completed.
With that review published in April, alongside a series of recommendations which said adults with learning disabilities should have use of a “safe and accessible” building, the campaign to save Tudor Street has gathered pace.
Now Monmouth MP David Davies and Cllr Richard John, leader of the opposition, are urging the Labour-run council to “get on and implement the review’s very clear findings”.
They met with campaigners and service users in Abergavenny on Friday, including Owen Lewis and Sarah Griffiths, ahead of a crucial cabinet meeting on Wednesday (26 July) to consider the outcome of the review.
“The local strength of feeling is clear for all to see. This isn’t just about reopening a building. It’s about offering social interaction and friendship,” said Mr Davies.
“Loneliness is a real problem, especially for people who have physical disabilities or learning difficulties. We all want company and the Covid pandemic proved that.
“At least two buildings being considered by the council in Abergavenny as alternatives, including the Melville Theatre, have been shown not to be suitable on access grounds. Tudor Street day centre already has facilities in place. The cost of reopening it would be a drop in the ocean compared to the terrible false economy of having to carry out adaptions to other buildings.
“Instead of viewing service users, their families and supporters as opponents, the council should be working with them as partners to get Tudor Street back up and running as soon as possible.”
Mr Davies said campaigners were hopeful that one councillor who had been vocal in support of reopening the centre prior to joining the cabinet would back them at Wednesday’s meeting now he is in a position to make a decision.
Cllr John added: “An independent review was commissioned from experts in the field of social care and their findings were clear and unequivocal.
“The council needs to stop dragging its feet and get on with implementing those recommendations. There is ample evidence to justify reopening Tudor Street day centre, which has the strong backing of the local community.
“All eyes will now be on Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.”