Trustees of a charity providing essential day services for older people have warned it could close by this Friday – unless Bromley Council keep their promise to support it.

This weekend Bromley Councillors received a letter from the Trustees of Age Concern Ravensbourne who manage the Bertha James Day Centre. The trustees’ letter says that unless the £73k promised by the Leader of the Council is made available immediately, the centre will be forced to close on Friday 13 March.

The trustees have been in dialogue with Bromley’s Conservative Councillors for some time. The centre, which provides social support, personal care services for elderly residents and much needed respite for their carers, can no longer continue under the current funding arrangements.

The council’s shift in how it funds social care have made the day centre’s current service model unviable. This included the sudden imposition of rental payments by the local authority, which had previous charged a ‘peppercorn’ rate given the Centre’s importance to the community. The council had pledged £73k to enable the centre to implement a new financially sustainable way of working – but this has not been paid.

Speaking for Bromley Labour Group, Cllr Angela Wilkins said:

“This situation is appalling. It appears Bertha James Centre has been set up to fail by Bromley’s Conservative council.

At the very end of the last meeting of the Adult Care and Health committee, when members were packing up, we were unexpectedly informed that Bertha James Centre had considerable financial difficulties and would be facing immediate closure unless the council provided £73k.

The committee was told that the money would be provided and that the centre would be able to stay open until December 2020.

I am horrified now to learn that the money has not been paid. I call on Cllr Smith to immediately ‘cough up’, just as he promised to do.”

Having recently met with the management of Bertha James’ Centre, Cllr Wilkins gave more background on the situation:

“The council’s delay in payment on top of its imposition of unsustainable conditions in the centre’s funding is driving this service to closure. Having met recently with the management of BJC, I believe the council should be working constructively to retain this important local service.

I ask the council to lead a full and proper review of the situation –involving current and potential users of the Borough’s day centres. Changes may be necessary, but closure of the centre is final and removes both options for users and respite opportunities for carers.

The Council must not be allowed to set up services to fail, reducing much-needed support options for Bromley’s elderly population.”

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