Yesterday I was invited to the most powerful campaign meeting I have attended in a long time. The moment I entered the Whetley Hill Resource Centre, I was bowled over by the sense of warmth and activity. In Bradford, this has provided a really important community for those with moderate to severe disabilities for the last 35 years.
Purpose built, with dedicated staff, it a remarkable gift to the city. It is well used and well loved by those who depend upon it, but now it is under threat. The local council have decided to cut the provision from March next year, to save a miserly £200,000.
The people who use the service, alongside their carers, sat in a large circle, 40 or so mostly in wheelchairs. They had action plans, petitioning and real gusto! Only one councillor has dared to actually visit the centre, and he has not publicly declared his support, only privately. The first task will be forcing those who want to make this cruel decision to actually see what goes on.
The staff have been told not to speak about it, though 20 of them face redundancy. The council are trying to argue that there is no need for the provision, and that it is under used. The reality is that senior council bosses are delaying and deterring referrals to the centre to try and give that impression.
The job now is to make this campaign visible, on the streets and in the council chambers. Cuts inevitably hit the most vulnerable first, and it is the duty of all of us to defend these vital services. We have a strong moral case, but more importantly, amazing allies. The users of Whetley Hill are not to be pushed around - they will make formidable adversaries for the bullies of local and national government!