Closure of Wayland Hall Luncheon Club in Watton is ‘awful’

Disappointed members of a long-running luncheon club have described its closure as a 'miserable old do'.

Wayland Hall Luncheon Club charity, which has been based at Wayland Hall, Middle Street, Watton, since 1980, will shut on September 28 before Norfolk County Council funding will be cut on September 30.

Laura Ahuja, co-ordinator of the club, said: 'It is absolutely disgusting. For what it costs to run the savings are going to be non-existent. It is a travesty.'

The charity received just over �22,000 each year from the council and provides a hot dinner for up to 16 people per day Monday to Friday.

These funds have paid for a meals-on-wheels service, which started in 1971, for up to 24 people Monday to Friday and three members of staff at the club – Mrs Ahuja, a cook and assistant cook.

Stella Smith, 86, from Watton, said: 'I'm very sad. I've been coming here for a long time and I'm very sorry because we can have a chat and we have a game of bingo after lunch. It is a miserable old do. It is awful.'

Joyce Perry, 82, also from Watton, said: 'We feel it is a great loss. They have lovely dinners. It gives you something to look forward to. The people who receive meals-on-wheels will feel it more.'

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The room at Wayland Hall used by club members is hired out for free by Watton Town Council.

In April the county council pulled out of providing meals itself after cutting its �1.2m a year subsidy for the meals.

Plans were put in place for people who got their meals from the service to use their personal budgets to buy dinners from selected companies.

The council's decision to switch to commissioning private companies to provide the meals was made during the Big Conversation, which identified �155m of savings in 2010.

David Harwood, county council cabinet member, said: 'We would love to be able to continue to fund community-based services like these, which are clearly highly valued, but we cannot justify it when we ourselves are facing significant reductions in our funding. We have to target the limited funding we have to where it is most needed.

'We appreciate the withdrawal of this funding would have meant substantial changes to the way the trust administered the club, however other lunch clubs exist in Norfolk which do not receive funding from us so we hoped we could help them to find a solution that could work for them. Before the committee came to what we know was a difficult decision to stop running it, we had supported them to look at ways that could have helped them to make these changes.'

Mr Harwood added anyone who attends the club and receives social care support will be reassessed and the council will make sure that people's care needs are met.

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