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'Booted by the suited' for opposing Glasgow centre closure

Grace Harrington was sitting quietly in the public gallery of Glasgow City Chambers listening to Labour councillors agreeing a further £43m of budget cuts. Out of the blue, she was grabbed by staff and "huckled", as the expression goes, out of the building.

When she asked why she was being subjected to this treatment, she was informed she was “not a model citizen” and further that she was banned from the City Chambers for life.

Grace is the mother of a man with learning disabilities; for many years her son has met daily with friends at the Accord Day Centre in Glasgow's East End. The centre is being demolished to make way for a bus park for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

At first parents and members of the service were told they would get a 'like-for-like' replacement, maybe a custom-built building within the new Tolcross Aquatic Centre. They were encouraged to put down their ideas for what the new centre would be like. Everyone was excited about the future.

But this proved a cruel joke. Last year they were informed there would be no replacement; the best they could hope for would be a room in local community centre, and so their struggle began.

It has been long and bitter, with the council behaving like arrogant bullies throughout. First they said there was no money; then they denied they had made any commitment. In a final insult they claimed it is all for the good of the members: day services are old-fashioned and the Accord Centre would have been on a closure list anyway.

According to current social work “newthink”, everyone must be “independent” and have a “personal budget” that they spend on everyday activities like “normal” people. The fact that the budgets don't cover the real cost of what people want or the support they need is irrelevant.

The fact that what the members of the Accord want is the centre they were promised, is ignored. Choice only counts if you choose the “option” they tell you to.

The replacement is an inconveniently shaped room in a community centre that is facing closure. The Banbury Community Centre, built in a tough old area, is not seen as safe by local people. It seems likely the council only invested in space for the evicted Accord Centre members to encourage the Glasgow Housing Association (formerly the council's housing department) to keep it open.

The members of Save the Accord Campaign have fought tenaciously, and with their excellent slogan "Booted by the Suited", have marched and spoken at meetings and challenged every lie and distortion.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond told them that he would step in to help, but nothing came of his promise except a few headlines for him.

The Accord Centre has been demolished around the members, stripped of all its equipment and the fence between it and the road torn down. Some parents have been told that it will close finally tomorrow; no letter has been sent out but it seems council officials are phoning parents individually.

Whilst no money could be found to replace the Accord, Glasgow City Council has spent millions on dodgy land deals in the East End.

The impact of big sporting events on communities is never the wonderful regeneration that politicians claim. It just makes money for developers, and increases land values, shutting out any future social or community benefit.

The experience of the Accord Centre is a powerful argument to put an end to communities being “booted by the suited” for good, by transferring land ownership, planning and decision-making to democratic People's Assemblies.

Penny Cole
23 February 2012

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