A third Birmingham day centre for adults with learning disabilities could be closed by the city’s cash-strapped social services.
The future of the Aldridge Road centre in Oscott is under threat along with Collingwood in West Heath and the Hockley day centre as the city council’s adults and communities department battles to close a £10 million budget deficit.
Cabinet members have agreed to a three-month consultation period with the day centre’s users, carers and families.
The decision was taken in the face of public protest. A petition signed by more than 1,000 people calling for the centres to remain open was presented to the cabinet.
The three centres are under-used and face a £5.5 million bill to bring them up to modern standards, according to the council.
Sue Anderson, cabinet member for adults and communities, said people with learning disabilities were increasingly choosing not to use the council’s day centres and to opt for private sector or voluntary provision instead.
Although the council has 926 places available at nine centres across the city, only 604 are taken. Collingwood has a 53 per cent occupancy rate, Aldridge Road 78 per cent and Hockley 82 per cent.
Coun Anderson (Lib Dem Sheldon) said: “There is a high level of under-usage and we have serious budget pressures.
“I must stress that no decision about closure has been taken and that people who have our services will continue to get them. There is no question of taking services away, but they may not be in existing buildings.”
Peter Hay, strategic director of adults and communities, said pressure on the social services budget left the council with no choice but to reduce day centre provision.
Mr Hay added: “I can’t run a service that is £10 million over budget. It is about cutting our cloth to fit the resources that we have.”
Opposition Labour leader Sir Albert Bore claimed it was inevitable day centres would close, whatever the result of the consultation.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) added: “If we get this wrong and we don’t have a consultation process that the users of the centres would wish to have then we will have a lot of people extremely upset and disturbed.”