Council says it 'cannot justify' keeping Blackpool mental health centre open
Campaigners warned people will "have nowhere else to go" when a mental health centre in Blackpool shuts due to council cuts.
Protesters held a demonstration outside Blackpool Town Hall ahead of a meeting of the council's executive committee to highlight the plight of the residential unit on Gloucester Avenue.
Local government union Unison says seven jobs are at risk due to the closure which is part of nearly £20m of savings the council is making to its budget for the coming financial year.
Campaigners from The Stand Together and Recovery (STAR) group said the centre was the only one of its type in Blackpool.
Jessica Johnson said: "People with mental health issues go there and there is going to be nowhere for them to go.
"We know there are cuts coming and we understand it's hard to decide where to make cuts, but Blackpool has some of the worst problems in the country when it comes to mental health so I think it should be a priority."
Ms Johnson said she was one of many people in the town who had struggled with mental health problems and who had been helped by the centre, especially by its peer support programme.
But Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said there were only two residents currently living in the centre, which can take up to six people.
He said: “The seven staff at Gloucester Avenue have provided fantastic services for many decades, and we thank them for their amazing dedication.
"Unfortunately, set against a backdrop of £150m plus of austerity cuts imposed on the council by a Conservative government, we cannot continue to justify keeping open a building that is significantly under occupied - with only two tenants at present.
"Those two service users will continue to be supported in new tenancies if need be, and we are confident the vast majority, if not all, of the seven staff affected can be redeployed into other comparable jobs with the council if they so wish.”
Neil Adams, secretary of the Blackpool local government branch of Unison, said: “We were pleased to see so many passionate people turning out in such bad weather to speak up and protest in support of the vital mental health services at Gloucester Avenue.
"Our members put across a passionate response to the proposals, but it seems the council executive committee were not willing to change their minds, with few questions on the proposal being asked by the committee members.
"We will continue to campaign to save the service and urge people to lobby their councillors to overturn the decision. We are planning to protest again at the full council meeting on March 9”.