Gateshead: reprieve for respite centre

Norman Hall

On Saturday 20 February over 200 people took to the streets in Gateshead in a lively protest march over the latest round of cuts proposed in the Labour council’s budget plans.

This was followed by a rally outside the Civic Centre at which campaigners Melanie Cornwell and Paul Watson from the Save Grove House Campaign spoke.

They announced that Cabinet papers released the day before show that the council is to back down over the closure of Grove House – a respite centre for children and a respite and day centre for adults, all with serious disabilities.


This decision represents a marvellous victory for the affected families and their supporters who have campaigned tirelessly against the proposals.

They had no doubts that without the campaign, which was very loud, public and embarrassing for the council, these vital facilities would now be facing privatisation or closure.

Melanie made the point that “we learned yesterday that cuts to these services will not go ahead this year which is fantastic news. But so many families already under immense pressure have had to endure almost four months of worry, uncertainty and additional stress.”

She went on to say: “This is a Labour-controlled council, everything about cuts that affect the most vulnerable and needy go against what the Labour Party stands for.

“We have urged councillors to follow the pledge made in a party political broadcast recently by Jeremy Corbyn to defend the communities and services they rely on and to work with other local authorities to put the pressure on government to force them to live up to their responsibilities and protect vulnerable people.”

However, the justified celebrations were tempered by the fact that other proposals, such as the closure of two children’s homes, the charging of disabled youth aged 16 to 18 for transport to school and the move to three-weekly bin collections, are still to go ahead.

Also, the climbdown over the respite centres is only a promise to keep them open another year.


Campaigners were frequently told the council could not use reserves to keep these services running but that is exactly what has happened.

Unfortunately, the reserves are being used, not to launch a struggle to get more funding from the government, but only to allow the council time to “remodel” the services.

If the council thinks that this sop is going to keep the families and their supporters quiet, they have another thing coming – starting with lobbies of the forthcoming Cabinet and full council meetings.