"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Pensioners Protest Against Day Centre Closure Plans

Pensioners fighting plans to save two day centres from the axe staged a protest in Norwich city centre yesterday.

The clock is ticking on a crunch decision, which could see the Essex and Silver Rooms in Norwich closed, but the elderly people who use them are not prepared to give up without a fight.

They demonstrated on the steps of City Hall yesterday to show Norfolk County Council how vital the centres are to their lives – and to gather more signatures to add to a petition already signed by thousands of supporters.

Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council revealed last year that it wanted to close the county council-run centres because of a massive shake-up in the way care is provided.

The county council says within 15 years there will be a 62pc increase in the number of people in Norfolk with dementia, rising from 12,714 in 2008 to 20,621 by 2025.

They say that means they have to change their focus on tackling the surge in dementia and the care homes and day services it runs will change as a result.

Council bosses say the Essex and Silver Rooms are not suitable to be converted to that use so have proposed their closure – to the fury of pensioners who use them.

One of the protesting pensioners at yesterday’s demonstration was Greta Holmes, 79, from Magdalen Road, who first started attending the Silver Rooms with her husband Leslie about eight years ago.

She said: “I took my husband there and he had Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He loved it there. After he died I didn’t think I could face going back, but the first thing they said when I got there was that if I needed to cry that was okay.

“The staff there were wonderful to me and I have such good memories of how my husband enjoyed it there. It is a place which has become like a memorial to him for me. It means so much to me. He was a wonderful man and a wonderful father.”

The pensioners were at City Hall because the county council was holding a drop-in session there about the development of a housing and community support strategy.

Although that strategy is not part of the planned shake-up which could see the day centres closed, the pensioners wanted to send a message to the county council’s cabinet, which will make a decision in June.

Harold Bodmer, director of Norfolk Adult Social Services, said: “Now that our consultation has finished, the feedback we have received will be analysed by an independent marketing and research company.

“We will take careful account of what’s been said and feed people’s views into our detailed proposals, which will go to Cabinet for a final decision in June.”


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