Hollow victory for Highbury day centre users

A LUNCH club will continue at a Highbury day centre after a hard-fought community battle – but its elderly users are worried the place will not be same.

Sotheby Mews Day Centre, in Sotheby Mews, Highbury, will continue to offer a cooked meal at lunchtimes – and will not close for several weeks when a new provider takes over in April, as had been expected.

But despite Islington Council announcement that the centre has been saved, there will no longer be a full schedule of activities – meaning no more bingo, line dancing, arts and crafts or exercise classes.

Henry Bourner, 78, of Birchmore Walk, Highbury, chairman of the Sotheby Mews Management Committee, said: “It won’t be the same. It can’t be the same.

“I just feel we have won the battle but lost the war. I’m concerned there’s not going to be as much going on. We don’t know what will happen with the other activities.

“We were running five days a week. Now we’re not sure if they’re going to do three or maybe four days – but it will not be five.”

Sotheby Mews had faced closure since last summer, when Islington Council revealed plans to pull its �160,000 funding.

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After users staged protests and gathered a thousand-signature petition, they were finally handed a reprieve in February when the council’s Labour leaders said it would continue in some form – but would close for a number of weeks while matters were resolved.

This week the council announced it will provide a much-reduced �55,000 grant to Highbury Roundhouse to take over the lunch clubs from previous provider Age Concern Islington.

Liz Clare, 73, of Petherton Road, Highbury, a user who used to take her mother to Sotheby Mews, said: “I’m worried it could start off with a bang and fizzle out. And there’s not going to be any transport any more – the only people going to be able to use it are able-bodied people that can make their way there.”

Councillor Terry Stacy, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, said the money given to Highbury Roundhouse will not cover transport. He added: “It’s going to be a shadow of its former self. It’s good news that it won’t close, but the way the council has handled this has been a farce.”

Councillor Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s executive member for adult social care, said: “I’m pleased to say that from April, Highbury Roundhouse lunch clubs will join Sotheby Mews, providing a hot meal for three to four days a week and ensuring we keep services operating and the centre open.”