Plea for Walsall Council to stall sale of social care centre
Council bosses are tonight set to be asked to take a community centre off the market for 12 months in order to plan for how the borough will cope without it.
Walsall Council Labour chiefs agreed to sell off the Broadway North site, home to adult social care services, Dudley and Walsall Mental Health NHS Trust and Park Hall Community Association, at a cabinet meeting last month.
However, at a heated scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday night, members agreed to ask the authority's cabinet to push forward plans to postpone any potential sale for 12 months.
This came after hearing impassioned pleas from members of the Park Hall Community Association, who said that the authority would be 'shocked' at how much the group could do to ease social care issues in the borough with a little help, as well as calls from mental health service users on how the site has helped transform their life.
The committee also heard from councillors regarding their concerns over selling the site and losing a valuable asset.
Addressing the committee, Barbara McCracken, community manager with Park Hall Community Association, said: "We see around 18,000 people a year who we help with social isolation, counselling and so much more.
"The impact of this closure will cost you very very dearly in a financial sense, because these people will have nowhere to go.
"The job we do is such a crucial one and we do it because it is in our hearts to help, we are all so passionate and there are numerous case studies I could show you that prove exactly how we have helped save people in the past.
"The sale of this site is short termist, but in the long term the impact of the closure will be disastorous.
"You would be shocked at the good we can do to help you by helping the people of Walsall, with very little financial support.
"We in the volunteer sector can do things that you simply can't and we want to be able to carry on doing that."
A mental health support worker, Wendy Richards, also spoke passionately of her belief that the site should not be sold off down to the help it offers people suffering from mental health issues.
She said: "I came to Walsall in desperate need of help, I had been failed by the mental health services in Birmingham.
"Broadway North is a big part of me being where I am today, I am on the right road, I have been properly diagnosed and I have had help from some wonderful, intelligent, caring staff.
"Please don't do this to the people of Walsall."
Councillor Mike Bird lent his support to plans to allow the Park Hall Community Association to take over the site, while also suggesting that the building could help bring in profit for the council in its current state if sold as consultancy rooms for doctors.
The community group is in discussions to get lottery grant funding to help bid for the site and is keen to open talks with Walsall Council over this idea.
Councillor Rose Martin also spoke to call for a public meeting to be held in relation to potential plans to build a new health centre on the old Jabez Cliff site on Lower Forster Street, which would serve 23,000 people.
The plans are still at a very early stage and the Jabez Cliff site is only a preferred option at this point but councillor Martin said that the Broadway North site should be used to house the centre.
She said: "Why don't you build homes on the Jabez Cliff site and leave our only thriving community facility at the Broadway alone?"
The committee resolved to recommend that Walsall Council's cabinet tonight discuss the idea of stalling any potential sale of Broadway North for 12 months in order to pursue all options.