Put cash back into health centre

The Save Finsbury Health Centre campaign would welcome public clarification from local health boss Helen Pettersen of her comment that “The �350,000 [from the sale of the empty Pine Street building] will also enable NHS Islington to do some work to the Finsbury Health Centre, which was built in 1938 by architect Berthold Lubetkin in order to bring modern healthcare to the masses and is now in desperate need of refurbishment” (“Leading stammering centre to take over empty Finsbury building”, Gazette, December 23).

Is all this sale money to be made available for refurbishment of the Grade I-listed building?

We believe that it should be, since Ms Pettersen’s employer, NHS Islington (PCT), is entirely responsible for FHC’s present condition.

Or is she referring only to the costs of immediate repairs required by English Heritage to prevent the popular health facility’s further decay (circa �30k)? This leaves another �320k the PCT could put towards refurbishment, money which has so far been refused during PCT board meetings and meetings with Islington councillors.

Since taking ownership in 2002, the PCT has regularly underspent on its annual account while spending nothing on the maintenance of Finsbury Health Centre.

Almost its entire �408k underspend for the last financial year has, for example, been used for new IT facilities at its Goswell Road headquarters, which it may have to vacate in two years.

The Finsbury Health Centre Community Trust was set up last month to pursue charitable funding options for the building’s refurbishment, but the PCT should not think it can now wash its hands of its responsibilities.

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Islington Council originally agreed to sell the Pine Street site to the PCT in 2007 because of its expressed intent to use the land to expand facilities at a refurbished Finsbury Health Centre, plans which were dropped to much public indignation the following year.

There is every good reason why, after doing the immediately necessary repairs, the whole of the proceeds from this sale of Pine Street should be spent on current plans to refurbish Finsbury Health Centre, and we hope that Ms Pettersen will confirm this in both private and in public. – Meg Howarth and Barb Jacobson, Campaign to Save Finsbury Health Centre, Charles Rowan House, Margery Street, WC1.