AN OAP support group which has operated out of Winyates Green Community Centre for 40 years has been forced to move its meeting time.
Representatives from Rubicon Leisure, established unanimously by the Redditch borough council in 2018, told Winyates Senior Citizens Group (WSCG) it had given its early afternoon slot to a nursery instead.
When contacted by the Standard, the ‘arm’s length’ Local Authority Trading Company said it had tried, but failed, on numerous occasions to get in touch with WSCG to see if they were returning after lockdown.
Managing director Simon Ingyon said: “In a final attempt to reach the group we informed them if we didn’t hear back we would have to offer their slot to another group.”
But Ann Hunt, who helps run WSCG, said she didn’t receive those calls and instead it was her chasing Rubicon about the renewal.
“I phoned my contact at Rubicon several times and he either wouldn’t answer the phone or would say he didn’t have enough time to read my emails,” she said.
“When we were told our slot at the centre had been given away to another group we were devastated.
“We were offered alternative venues and times but that meant travelling out of the area in the dark which would have been difficult for our users.”
Ann contacted Coun Joe Baker (Lab, Greenlands) for help as he has supported the group over the last ten years.
Coun Baker told the Standard he had been privy to a conversation that Rubicon were making difficult financial decisions to create income – although the borough council said fees and charges are equal across the board for all groups.
“It didn’t take a petition,” said Coun Baker who helped secure the group a new 4pm slot at centre, “just good, old-fashioned negotiation.
“I am pleased we have managed to get the group reinstated back at a time that suits both parties involved.
“It’s about dealing with people directly and carefully working out a solution that best fits both sides.”
Ann added: “We have been given 4pm thanks to Joe. It’s still not ideal, nothing against the nursery, but we would much prefer our afternoon slot back.”
However the later time slot has created its own problems as the Dial-a-Ride service many of the senior citizens rely on ends before their session closes.
Coun Mike Rouse, the deputy leader of the borough council said: “It’s resulted in a bit of a mess but we’re working on a solution.
“We’ll make sure members of the group can get home one way or another.”