Council confirms January closure of Cally’s much-loved Drovers community centre

Service users of the Drovers Centre don't want it to close. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Service users of the Drovers Centre don't want it to close. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey - Credit: Archant

A much-loved activity centre for older people will close because of funding difficulties, despite a huge backlash against the plans.

The Drovers Day Centre. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

The Drovers Day Centre. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey - Credit: Archant

Services at the council-owned Drovers Centre are set to end in late January 2020, with the town hall preparing to look at turning the site into "much-needed housing".

More than half of 118 respondents to a council consultation said the loss of the Drovers would have a significant impact on their level of social contact, with 74 per cent of 107 people opposing its closure. But the council's executive approved the closure on Thursday.

In a petition to MP Emily Thornberry attempting to prevent the closure which gained 282 signatories, campaigner Diane Armstrong wrote: "The Drovers is a very important place to so many people. It provides a haven for users who without the centre would probably go for days if not weeks without seeing another person. The centre being closed will be a devastating blow for some of the most vulnerable residents of Islington and will leave them isolated and alone."

The Gazette spoke to users when the plans were unveiled in August. A 95-year-old service user, who gave his name as George, said "I have come here for over 20 years, so it's an absolute calamity it's closing. It will shorten my life by five years. It would be lovely if they could keep it going. It's a very good place for old people."

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George's daughter, Jenny Watkins added: "The issue is the council being pressured because they are not being funded properly. I think Islington is amazing actually, they have been very supportive to my father. They are being pushed into this by central government starving them of funds."

The council says the Drovers currently requires £170,000 in repairs. The annual £90,000 it pays Age UK Islington has proved insufficient in recent years, with the full cost of services estimated at £150,000 yearly. That led Age UK to pull out of running the centre regardless from the end of January 2020.

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Cllr Janet Burgess, health and social care lead, said: "Whilst the consultation demonstrated the considerable values and benefits the Drovers Centre offers and indicates the risks and impacts of closure, these could be addressed and mitigated through other services available."

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