Norwich MPs ' see merits of day centre changes'

Sarah HallNorwich's two MPs have said they can see the merit in proposals which will replace two much-loved city day centres for the elderly - after meeting county council bosses to discuss the plans.Sarah Hall

Norwich's two MPs have said they can see the merit in proposals which will replace two much-loved city day centres for the elderly - after meeting county council bosses to discuss the plans.

The much-loved Silver Rooms and Essex Rooms were suggested for closure last October, but, in the wake of anger from the pensioners who use them and their families, Norfolk County Council agreed to carry out consultation.

Following that consultation, the county council still thinks the centres should shut. However, they want the centres to close gradually and wants to form a partnership with Age Concern Norwich and Norwich City Council to ensure alternative services are provided to the pensioners who use them.

County Hall officers said the partnership would allow friendship groups to stay together in other locations - such as in housing with care schemes.

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North and Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat MP yesterday met James Bullion, the county council's assistant director for adult social services and David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, to find out more about the proposals.

And they came away optimistic that the new proposals would benefit pensioners - even if it did mean the end of the road for the Silver Rooms and Essex Rooms.

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Ms Smith said: 'I feel that these proposals, as they stand, could work. I think there is a lot of merit in keeping together the same staff and the same friendship groups, with transport included in the package. That will ease a lot of the concerns I have had.

'My understanding is that people who currently use the Silver and Essex Rooms will have security through this proposal. The facilities they currently use will continue until the new ones are up and running and I am assured that will be down to the very last day.

'In an ideal world nothing ever needs to change, but I think it's true to say the buildings of the Silver and Essex Rooms are not of the highest quality and it is not unreasonable to want the very best quality for our older people.'

Mr Wright said: 'I think it looks very likely that the two day centres will be closed eventually, but what I am reassured by is that I feel the county council has gone much further than it was to provide alternative provision.

'With the idea of a partnership between the county council, Norwich City Council and Age Concern to provide alternatives, possibly in sheltered housing near the existing centres with existing friends kept together, I can see there is a case for that.

'I do feel the county council has moved a long way compared to where they were when there didn't seem to be any alternatives being put forward.

'I think that is largely to do with the campaigners who have worked so hard, because that campaign has made real ground in ensuring alternatives will be found.'

Campaigners for the two day centres, who have been featured in the Evening News's Fight For Our Day Centres articles. are still not giving up the fight for survival.

They plan to demonstrate at County Hall next Wednesday when the adult social services overview and scrutiny panel is set to agree the latest proposals, although the final decision will rest with the county council cabinet next month.

What do you think of the proposals? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email