VULNERABLE elderly people could lose a vital lifeline amid accusations that South Holland District Council reneged on a deal with a charity providing day care.
Age UK says it has been landed with a bill for £4,500 backdated to last July for the use of a community room in Holbeach despite striking a deal in 2004 that the facilities would be provided free of charge.
The district council says the change is necessary due to the current financial climate.
The Boston and South Holland branch of the charity uses the room at Lyndis Walk sheltered accommodation in Holbeach from 9.30am to 3pm every Wednesday to look after 18 old people who otherwise would be isolated in their own homes.
The group’s chief executive Richard Barclay said there was no consultation over the new charging policy, which means Age UK faces a bill of £70 a day for the room
He said: “There is no way we can afford that so we will have no choice but to cease providing this day care from the end of May.
“I am extremely frustrated as the council has refused to compromise and insists the policy will stand.
“It will have a devastating effect on these elderly people.
“The people who use the service don’t come along for a jolly day out, they have all been referred to us by their GP or other agency to get them away from the same four walls.
“In some cases the meal we provide is the only hot meal these people will get and I am worried about what will happen to them.”
Age UK had to close down a similar day care service in Long Sutton earlier this year and some of the elderly who used that have since started attending Holbeach.
Jobs were lost as a result and Mr Barclay fears the two paid staff who run the Holbeach sessions would also have to be made redundant.
He said he and his staff have been desperately looking for other suitable facilities in Holbeach, but said so far they have found nothing.
Mr Barclay said: “The way they have done it leaves a sour taste in my mouth and I question the legality of what they are doing.
“I don’t think they have all their ducks in a row because it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
“The gloves are off now out of sheer frustration and I think the council is just trying to claw back money after the Red Lion Quarter debacle.”
But a spokesman for South Holland District Council said the new fees were introduced as a result of the economic situation and insisted that Age UK was being charged a lower rate for “not for profit” groups.
He said: “Despite the fact Age UK was aware that it would be charged at the lower rate, it continued to hire the community centre facilities at Lyndis Walk, Holbeach, and Spring Gardens, Long Sutton.
“It later withdrew from Spring Gardens but continued to book Lyndis Walk.
“The council has devised an instalment plan from May 2012 until February 2013 to enable Age UK to pay monthly for last year’s and this year’s usage.
“It has only been charged for the time day care is running and not the additional periods to set up and clear away after the sessions.
“We have received no communication from Age UK to say it will no longer be using the community facilities and the booking remains in place until March next year.”