THERE is to be further probing of controversial closure plans for a live-in hostel for those with learning difficulties.
Wigan Council’s Leader of the Opposition has successfully proposed “calling in” the decision to axe The Pines in Kitt Green which is a home to 24 adult residents. It will be included on the agenda of the next watchdog Overview and Scrutiny Committee which has the power to ask town hall chiefs to reconsider controversial decisions.
Because the move to abandon the Mayfield Road facility was taken by cabinet member of adult and social care, Coun Keith Cunliffe, rather than the ruling cabinet, it can now be referred back to the full council for further debate.
Call-in proposer Coun Gary Wilkes is a leading figure in the pressure group, Save The Pines, which has already demonstrated the scale of anti-closure feeling with a 6,000-name protest petition to council bosses.
Coun Wilkes said: “We are calling in the decision to close The Pines and the day centres because the families involved believe that it is fundamentally wrong for Wigan and wrong for the people who are happy living there.
“I think that the decision to rehome 11 people, half of this community, in Upper Dicconson Street in the heart of Wigan is deeply flawed. This is a three-storey building which common sense tells you isn’t suitable for disabled people.
“As far as I am concerned they are proposing putting some of the most vulnerable people in Wigan in one of the worst places because it is right at the heart of the footfall for people coming and going to the clubs in the early hours, with all the noise and disturbance that entails.
“If the council are insistent on closing The Pines as they clearly are at the very least find these people somewhere that is in a more suitable location and the important thing is to keep them together.
“They are currently in what they all feel is an extended family giving each other support and to break this up is in my opinion unforgiveable.
“We need to make sure that there is somewhere just as appropriate if not better because I don’t think financial considerations should come into it. We know it is going to be very difficult to get the council to reverse this decision.
“But it is at least important to get it back before full council and have a proper debate about it.”
Council chiefs have not pulled their punches over The Pines situation though.
Coun Cunliffe said: “If I had relatives living at The Pines I would also be campaigning...but campaigning to close it down.
“To me, to keep people with learning disabilities in that standard of accommodation in the 21st century is a disgrace.
“It may have been cutting edge 50 years ago because people had their own separate accommodation but things have moved on and it is now severely out of date.
“Through the consultation there is nothing that has convinced me that we should continue to run it. I understand and respect the relatives are concerned about the future of their loved ones and I want to work with them to look at the alternatives.”