Campaigners gathered in their hundreds outside Leeds Civic Hall to protest at a planned overhaul of the city’s older people’s residential and day care.
Leeds City Council’s decision-making executive board last night rubber-stamped the controversial proposals, which include the closure of four residential homes in the city.
Residents, their relatives and care home staff, many carrying banners with messages like ‘Save Our Homes”, gathered outside civic hall, ensuring a noisy presence as decision-makers arrived.
Despite promises by bosses that any pensioners who have to be rehoused will be moved with sensitivity and utmost care, campaigners said they would rather no move was necessary at all.
One 90-year-old day centre user and former WWII air-gunner, who asked to be referred to as just ‘Keith’, said: “We have worked all our lives. I worked from 14 to 60 apart from during the war, I have paid into it. I don’t see why I should be turned out.”
Dennis Norris, 91, who lives at Burley Willows, one of the targeted residential homes, said: “I like it at Burley Willows. I don’t want to leave. I have been here two years. They are a friendly place and nice people in it, and it’s in Burley, where I grew up. The only family I have now is in London. Burley Willows are like my family, I don’t want to move.”
Around 100 people had attempted to sit in on the meeting of the executive board, but were unable to due to lack of space. Just 10 protestors were allowed into the public gallery to watch discussions.
Coun Adam Ogilvie, the council’s lead member for adult social care, spent several minutes talking to protesters outside Leeds Civic Hall ahead of the meeting.
The protest was organised by the GMB union, which represents many staff at some of the centres targeted for closure. Employees have been promised redeployment and severance packages, and the council has said there will be no compulsory redundancies.
Protest organiser and GMB regional officer Jon Smith said: “We want to show the elected members that people are not happy, that they want the centres to remain open, and that they will passionately defend them. We have a professional obligation to our members who work in these homes, but also a moral obligation to look after the people who live in them.” Click here to register and have your say on the stories and issues that matter to you