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Talks about centre future

TALKS have begun about the future of a popular day centre in Bognor Regis.


Arun District Council has started discussions with Age UK West Sussex about the Laburnum Centre for over-50s.


The council’s cabinet member for community wellbeing, Cllr Mike Clayden, and its group head of technical services, Nat Slade, have been given permission by councillors to compile a ‘mutually beneficial’ lease agreement with the charity for the day centre.


Minutes of the private discussion state the agreement will be backed only if its value cuts the council’s current £173,773 annual funding for the service, which has more than 1,000 members.
Negotiations are taking place against a backdrop of fears about the impact of further cuts in funding for council services.


Cllr Dr James Walsh said at the meeting he hoped work was going on to ensure Arun continued its support for older people’s services.


He feared they would be affected by the swingeing cuts which West Sussex County Council was faced with making after its initial savings in recent years.


“What action is being taken to ensure Arun continues to provide this service? Otherwise, I see older people services going the same way as those for young people a few years ago, which the county council has pulled out of completely.


“We will end up with all sorts of problems,” he said.


“What is happening may save the county council money but the knock-on effect on other public services – the police, the NHS and sometimes the fire service – and others who have to pick up the pieces and it will end up costing the public purse more.”


Cllr Matt Stanley (LD, Marine) also asked about work Arun was carrying out to lessen the impact of the county council’s likely cut in housing funding support to charities.


Last Wednesday’s meeting took place just after all the Conservative leaders of district and borough councils across West Sussex have agreed to write to the government warning about the effects of further cutbacks.


The county council has slashed spending by £145m in the past eight years and faces having to cut another £146m in the next four years.


Arun’s leader, Cllr Mrs Gillian Brown, told its members at their full meeting last week: “We agreed to write to government requesting key services for children and vulnerable adults are properly funded.”


A joint statement issued by the councils said: “West Sussex County Council explained the financial challenges of reduced government funding and the increased demands for the statutory services of children’s and adult social care. The leaders agreed how they could work together to try to mitigate the potential impacts of the cuts on vulnerable groups.


“It was acknowledged that in the next four-year period there is insufficient funding and it was agreed to write collectively to the government highlighting the difficult decisions that will need to be taken if social care services are not adequately funded.”

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