“This is about the council trying to move the poor out of the city centre to create an image of prosperity and recovery in Bradford. But it’s an illusion, the council are trying to make believe that poverty doesn’t exist here”. These comments summed up the feeling of the motivations behind Bradford Council’s decision to cut funding to the Edmund Street Day Centre at a public meeting of 25 people on Thursday 6th October.
Iain Dalton, Socialist Party West Yorkshire organiser
The ‘Save Edmund Street Day Centre’ campaign has been initiated recently by Bradford Socialist Party members, receiving significant coverage in local print and radio media. The meeting was attended by service users, people involved in the voluntary and community sectors as well as anti-cuts activists. Disgracefully, despite being invited, not one of the councillors for the ward the service is based in turned up to the meeting, to the anger of numerous service users.
Peter Robson, Bradford Socialist Party branch secretary, who has helped spearhead the campaign so far, opened up the meeting, putting the closure of the day centre in the context of Bradford Council’s passing on of the Tory austerity agenda onto the people of the city.
He was well aware of the valuable services provided by the day centre as a former probation officer who had referred people there in the past, and commented what a loss to vulnerable people the closure of the day centre will be.
Ron, a service user, spoke next, explaining the worries many service users have that the facilities to be offered at the Salvation Army centre, a smaller center which is to allegedly take on running the service, will be able to provide. He also pointed out that the Salvation Army is a mile and a half away up a steep hill from Edmund Street, and that service users have worries regarding the Salvation Army’s attitude to the LGBT community.
Mike Quiggan, from the Bradford Resource Centre was the final speaker. He pointed out that Bradford historically has had a vibrant array of community organisations that have tackled issues of poverty and stood in solidarity with each other, often backed by the trade union movement. Yet he pointed out that this has been whittled away in the more recent period, citing “The introduction of capitalist managerial techniques from the private sector” as a key factor in the fragmenting of Bradford’s Community & Voluntary sector. He pledged to appeal for the support of Bradford Trades Council for the campaign.
A wide ranging discussion took place, with service users and volunteers highlighting the valuable interlinked services that will be lost with the move, and questioning whether this had even been considered by the council. Whilst the day centre will be moved, a substance abuse service on the same street will remain there, fracturing the vital link between the two.
A campaign planning meeting will take place next week to thrash out a strategy involving many of the valuable suggestions made at the meeting – key to this will be pressurising the council to reverse this decision, including lobbying the upcoming council meeting on the 18th October.