Closure of ‘lifeline’ day centre may be unlawful Council could now face judicial review as lawyers join battle
BIRMINGHAM City Council is being urged to rethink an ‘unlawful’ decision to close a day centre that provides a ‘vital lifeline’ to adults with physical and learning disabilities in Kings Norton.
The council’s cabinet approved the closure of the Fairway Day Centre in Kings Norton in a meeting on September 18.
But now lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are preparing to apply for a judicial review into the proposal, as they claim the application was unlawful as there was inadequate consultation.
The decision to close the centre was initially approved in July, but the cabinet was ordered to consider the decision again by the Health and Social Care scrutiny committee following a challenge from Cllr Alex Aitken (Lab, Kings Norton North).
In the September meeting Cllr Rob Pocock said unlike the library closure consultation, there was not an adequate consultation with the public about which centres should close.
He said initially the council had ‘decided and then consulted’.
Lawyers are now acting for the family of one of the centre’s users, who has a range of conditions including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. She uses the centre four days a week.
Irwin Mitchell’s Oliver Carter, representing the family on the case said: “Fairway Day Centre is a vital hub for vulnerable people in the Kings Norton area and the community is extremely concerned regarding the steps which have been taken to close it. After reviewing the key facts surrounding this case, we believe the decision has ultimately been taken on unlawful grounds and we are now urging the council to once again revisit the issue.
“The closure of this site will have a significant negative impact on a number of people and it is clear that it should not be taken lightly. Users of the centre believe that the council had failed to consult and so did not know just how seriously this will impact on the local community.
“We will support our clients every step of the way in this matter.”
But Labour cabinet member for health and social care Paulette Hamilton has previously denied that the consultation fell short.
She said in the September meeting: “As the cabinet member I believe strongly that we did consult with service users, and have apolo- gised regarding the gap in consultation prior to September 2017.
“Furthermore, as stated a number of times when service users approached me to say they were not being listened to, the consultation period was restarted, support then commissioned by an independent advocate.”
She said the new strategy shows a move from building-based services to support for individuals, which would “make a positive contribution to thir communities”.
She added: “To do nothing would mean a continuation of a high cost service from an under-utilised high cost building in a poor state of repair, which we have no funding to do the repairs that are needed which are estimated to be around £400,000.
“It would be not practical... to keep it open for the sake of keeping it open. We do need now to push on with some of the changes that we make in the city.”
But Cllr Hamilton did admit that she had already agreed to the closure of the centre before the consultation took place.
She said that they had the savings outlined in the budget, but the new adult care strategy did not come until 18 months later.
Wendy Collymore, chairman of the campaign group Save Fairway Campaign Group said the closure would have a huge impact on the 51 service users.
She said: “Fairway is an essential part of the care arrangements for so many people, yet the council took the decision on closure without talking to any of us first. In terms of my father, moving to a new centre would upset him immensely as he has formed vital bonds with his peers and staff at Fairway.
“We are determined to ensure our voices are heard on this issue and hope that applying for a judicial review will make people recognise the need for a rethink.”
It would be not practical... to keep it open for the sake of keeping it open Cllr Paulette Hamilton
> Service users outside the Fairway Day Centre in Kings Norton, protesting over the council’s decision to close it