Following a meeting last Tuesday with councillor Allison Duncan and the people who regularly attend the Freefield Centre for lunch it has been reported that they unanimously agreed to move out and look for other premises. I would like to inform you of how this decision came about.
On further investigation, I discovered that councillor Duncan had requested an invitation to come to the centre. Doreen Williamson who is a member of the working group agreed to this.
However, Mr Duncan only contacted Mrs Williamson late on Monday night to tell her he would be attending on Tuesday at lunchtime. Given the short notice of his impending visit she did not have time to contact all of the people who use the centre and as a result only 23 people out of a possible 40 were there that day.
Users of the centre do not all attend every day and when I went for my lunch on Thursday I was greeted by several very upset and worried people who all related the same story – that they had been made to feel they had no other option but to agree with councillor Duncan’s wishes. It transpired that they had been given a long and protracted talk of the past work Mr Duncan had done with the elderly and social work and eventually he had told them that in the first instance they need to stop, what he called “intransigence” that existed between them, the council and the working group.
He also told them on more than one occasion that the doors of the Freefield Centre were to be closed and padlocked on 31st May. Not being knowledgeable on how the system of council meetings works they naturally thought that a meeting had been held and a decision had been taken to close the centre and being faced with being locked out on 31st May they all felt that there was no other route to take and very reluctantly agreed to seek to move to other premises.
Knowing a little bit more about how council meetings are held I found this to be very strange as I knew that the social services committee meeting was not due to be held until Friday of that week. I then contacted my own councillor, Allan Wishart, who confirmed what I had suspected – that the closure of the centre had not been decided on and it was merely a recommendation in a report from the social services department to be considered at Friday’s meeting.
When the users of the centre were told this they all felt that had been very badly misled into thinking they had no other option but to agree to move out. So you see the so called unanimous decision was not as unanimous as councillor Duncan would like you all to think.
A number of us attended the social services meeting and a decision on the centre has still not been made and is to be discussed again at a special meeting of the full council later in April.
I was not at the meeting with Mr Duncan in the Freefield Centre but feel very strongly that he should have given much more notice of his impending visit so that we could all have been in attendance that day and made up our own minds as to what should happen. Personally I feel that a decision was made on my behalf and in my absence that I would definitely not have made at that particular time. I cannot speak for others who were not present but suspect I will not be alone in feeling this way.
There is a very positive willingness on the part of the people who attend the centre to find a solution to this problem and try to keep Freefield open. We are not merely sitting back with our hands out expecting the council to come up with the full funding for the centre and have already offered ways in which we feel we can help reduce costs and are still working on further ideas that we feel could help solve the problem. We can only hope now that all councillors who will be in attendance at this special meeting later in the month will take note of the information I have given and take it into account before any definite decision is made.