Help us to save this lifeline

Members of the Whiteholme over-60s club are fighting to save their twice weekly sessions in Bispham.
Members of the Whiteholme over-60s club are fighting to save their twice weekly sessions in Bispham.
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Pensioners who face losing a “lifeline” social club are pleading with council chiefs to let them stay in a centre they have called home for almost 40 years.

Members at the Whiteholme Over 60s Club say their future is in jeopardy after being told they are to be thrown out of their base in Bispham.

Members of the Whiteholme over-60s club are fighting to save their twice weekly sessions in Bispham.

Members of the Whiteholme over-60s club are fighting to save their twice weekly sessions in Bispham.

They claim they will be ‘ousted’ from the centre, on All Saints Road, in July if Blackpool Council cannot find another organisation to take on the running of the building.

With running costs for the centre totalling around £6,000 a year, as well as on-going repair and maintenance costs, the council says it is no longer viable to run.

Club chairman John Hester said: “We have got until Bispham Gala on July 20 then we must find another home.

“The council said they would try to find us somewhere but they have not.

“We would like to stay. Some of our members are over 80 and one is 95, it is their life to come to the club.

“They look forward to it.”

The club, which has 30 members, previously ran every day offering activities such as bingo, keep fit, whist and dancing but now can only afford to run on Mondays and Fridays from 12.30pm until 4pm.

Up until this financial year, the club has never paid to use the centre.

But it did donate some tables and chairs as a resource for the building as the club had been based there free of charge.

The council has now proposed a charge of £10 a session – which would therefore mean £20 a week for the two sessions.

But Mr Hester added: “It is very difficult for people on pensions.”

He added the caretaker for the centre had not been replaced – after he left several years ago – and the members have to get out and put away all the tables and chairs themselves which they find difficult.

A town hall spokesman said: “Blackpool Council will continue to run Whiteholme Community Centre until the end of July.

“We understand the importance of the Over 60s Club and that it has great social benefits to the people that use it but, unfortunately, as they are the only group using the building on a regular basis the council can not maintain the building for another financial year.

“We have received a couple of expressions of interest from organisations wishing to take over the running of the building and we require any organisations to submit a business plan to outline how they plan to accommodate the existing users.

“We would encourage whoever takes over the building to maintain it as a community centre and look after the Over 60s Club.

“The building will remain on lease from the council.”

The centre is one of many to struggle in recent years.

The Co-Operative Club on Preston New Road closed its doors last month due to crippling debt.

Distraught members of the Over 60s Club say they fear they will lose their lifeline.

Bertha Charnock, 88, said: “There are some people who come to this club who don’t see anyone else all week, it is their lifeline.

“If it is closed down, they will sit on their own at home and it could be the end of the line for some of them.

“The council has spent a lot of money on projects like the free breakfasts for schoolchildren.

“We don’t begrudge that, but they should be doing a bit more for the elderly as well.”

Ex-Army veteran George Wood, 84, who served in Singapore and Malaya in the Army from 1946 to 1952, said: “It’s somewhere to come and be with people and without it we would feel isolated.

“We have been let down by the council.”

Club treasurer Mavis Ward added: “I think the council is treating us very shabbily.

“When you are an old person, you are just a nuisance to them.

“When you look at all the money being spent on the Prom, to oust us is just wrong.”

And Marion Wood, 81, said: “It’s two days in the week which we enjoy coming here. It will be so sad to lose it.”

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