A DAY centre for adults with learning disabilities is set to be offloaded by a council despite a near year-long battle to save it.
Campaigners had hoped to reopen the Tudor Centre in Abergavenny, but councillors are now being recommended to declare it “surplus to requirements” with alternative bases for the My Day, My Life service set to be approved.
The campaign to save the day centre in Tudor Street was launched after Monmouthshire County Council’s Labour-led cabinet announced – without consultation – in November last year its intention to permanently close the building that hadn’t reopened since the first Covid lockdown in 2020, and sell the site for social housing.
The council’s social services department had dismissed day centres as an outdated concept and the decision was taken despite an ongoing review of the My Day, My Life support service for adults with learning disabilities.
In January council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby apologised for announcing the closure without consultation, after the closure was put on hold, and in April the review into the My Day, My Life service recommended those using the service should have use of a building.
The council cabinet accepted the 10 recommendations of the review in full in July and began shortlisting potential bases for the service, which operates in north and central Monmouthshire, in Abergavenny and Monmouth.
The Tudor Centre was shortlisted but a report for the cabinet is recommending it names the Melville Centre as the Abergavenny base, and the Overmonnow Family Learning Centre as the Monmouth hub.
Works to both buildings to ensure they are accessible will take between eight and 12 weeks, with the possibility, according to a cabinet report, that a “small number of individuals” may not be able to use the bases “fully or at all” until completed.
Last month a bid by the Conservative group to force the council to reopen the Tudor Centre in the interim period was rejected by the full council. At that meeting it was said talks have been held with campaigners who wanted the centre to reopen about the possibility of them taking responsibility for it.
The cabinet is being recommended to approve a “full options appraisal” to determine the future use of the Tudor Street building within a set time to allow “interested parties the opportunity to come forward”.
The report by the council’s social services chief officer Jane Rodgers states the Tudor Centre would have required the council to find an extra £23,166 a year to support its running costs but there is no such additional spending from using the Melville as an existing management agreement means all rental income is transferred to the council which is already responsible for its utility costs.
The Melville, which is also used by community groups and for classes as well as performances, is described as an “existing vibrant community facility” which Ms Rodgers said is the “main distinction” between it and the Tudor Centre, which she described as “a specialist social services facility”.
Campaigners have said services at the Tudor Centre had been allowed to run down in the years before its temporary closure and highlighted it had previously supported a wider range of people with vulnerabilities and disabilities.
Ms Rodgers stated both the Tudor Centre and the Melville “meet the future requirements of the My Day, My Life service” but acknowledged while the currently shuttered centre has the potential to be “a more inclusive community space” it would likely compete with the Melville and the Abergavenny Community Centre, which was also shortlisted, for income from hiring rooms.
Her report warned “this could have a detrimental effect on other nearby community spaces” and added “locating in the Melville Centre will improve its sustainability as well as resulting in a more accessible venue for the whole community.”
The report also highlights that a £135,000 capital investment will be required this year to make adaptations to the Melville so that it is suitable for use, including by service users with physical disabilities.
Bringing the Tudor Street building back into use would have cost the council £150,075 this year plus its running costs.
Work at the Melville will include resurfacing the car park, widening an approach path and replacing an entrance door, improvements to the toilets, installing an evacuation chair as well as mechanical and electrical services and adding a tea point and a vinyl floor finish.
In Monmouth the cabinet is being asked to base the service at the Overmonnow Family Learning Centre, despite the Bridges Centre being described as “the most vibrant community facility of the three options”.
However as the service is unable to have a dedicated room available throughout the week in the busy community building it was described as not meeting the essential requirements of the service and its recommended to use the Overmonnow Centre despite it being the most expensive option.
It will need £127,650 to bring it up to standard, including improved pedestrian access and lighting, replacing a ramp and refurbishing the toilets, but, as the council owns the building, it will not have to pay any rent. Utility costs are estimated at £9,021 a year based on when the building was partially occupied before the pandemic.
The Monnow Vale Health and Social Care facility was discounted as it wasn’t considered to be a “vibrant community space” and couldn’t accommodate special events despite rating highly on accessibility and cost.
The council had consulted with service users on what they wanted from a base during the shortlisting process and the intention is the My Day, My Life service will still support people to take part in wider community activities but will also offer a space for users “to call their own” and to use if plans fall through, though there is no requirement for the buildings to be used every day.
The cabinet will consider the report when it meets on Wednesday, October 11.