Elderly pay the price for council cuts

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Elderly residents in Canonbury are having to pay up to 50 per cent more for activity groups, classes and meals at a popular community centre after cuts in council funding.

Islington Council withdrew its £10,000 grant in April for The Bridge community centre on Arran Walk, N1, which offers a range of discounted meals and classes to the elderly, despite a pensioners’ petition against the cuts.

Prices at the daily lunch club offered to Canonbury pensioners have risen from £3 to £4.50 since the cut, and the previously free bus that transports the elderly to the centre has started to charge £1 for its service.

The centre’s management is determined to continue its daily programme of activities – which include lunch clubs, indoor bowls, darts, walking groups, knitting classes, exercise sessions and art groups – but is having to increase prices to account for the council’s cuts.

Kasia Beruffi, the Bridge centre’s treasurer, said it was “very sad” that the council had decided to cut all funding for the project.

She said: “The old people who visit the centre are very set in their ways, so when they were asked to pay for services that they’ve received free for so long, it caused a bit of a stir.”

The Bridge’s managers are trying to find alternative ways of financing the daily clubs. The New River Baptist Church, which operates out of the same building, is raising money through donations, a café

The Bridge’s managers face a struggle to make the centre affordable for its elderly users.
Image: Matt Dathan

and other events that will help pay for the community centre.

Robin Plummer, minister at the church, said that although council funding had been critical to the Bridge, the centre was drawing positives from its withdrawal.

He said: “The council cuts have sparked an entrepreneurial spirit and we are innovating exciting ways of being able to offer services to those in need. It may take a while, but we are confident that we can drive down the prices for the elderly in the near future.”