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Homeless centre closure revenge, claim

PUBLISHED: 11:18 11 November 2010 | UPDATED: 11:42 11 November 2010

Threshold staff before funding was cut: Back row:  Susie Tanner, Lorraine Thompson, Sukhbir Ahluwalia and

Ruth Parry. Front:  Jane Mepham and Mervyn Mackintosh.

Threshold staff before funding was cut: Back row: Susie Tanner, Lorraine Thompson, Sukhbir Ahluwalia and Ruth Parry. Front: Jane Mepham and Mervyn Mackintosh.

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A COUNCIL was accused of taking revenge on a homeless centre after it was referred to the Local Government Ombudsman for maladministration.

Threshold Housing Advice, in Shepherd’s Bush, was forced to close its doors for the last time on Friday following Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s decision in July to stop its funding.

Cllr Stephen Cowan, leader of the Labour opposition, said: “It is hard not to reach the conclusion that the removal of all Council funding to that organisation is anything other than cold-hearted revenge.”

However, Cllr Joe Carlebach, cabinet member for community care, refuted this saying there was tough competition for taxpayers’ money and the decision was based on a rigorous assessment.

The advice centre, which served the community for 32 years, referred the H&F Council to the Ombudsman last year after it failed to house an eight-month pregnant victim of domestic violence in emergency accommodation.

She said she spent the next four nights sleeping rough in a park.

The Ombudsman found the council guilty of maladministration causing injustice in January and accused it of applying too strict a criterion after insisting she prove she was homeless.

Lorraine Thompson, director of services at THA, said: “It was a terrible tragedy [losing funding]. There was 150 years experience between us. None of the other organisations offer the services we did. There will be a terrible gap now. I don’t know where people will go. I was at the centre yesterday clearing up and people were still coming for help.

“The council don’t do specialist casework and certainly not with people with housing issues with them. Even the council used to refer people to us.”

Despite not being paid, dedicated case workers continued to offer advice right up until Friday.

A last ditch attempt by the Labour opposition, on October 27, to reinstate the £175,000 grant failed when the Conservative-run council overturned the motion.

However, the conservatives dismissed the move as a piece of political theatre for the public gallery.

The motion had been postponed from the September 16 Council meeting after the Mayor called for a vote to move the debate; something that had never happened before according to opposition leader, Stephen Cowan.

Cllr Carlebach said: “The council received 89 applications from 68 organisations requesting £6.5million - around three times what we actually have to spend. We recognise that some unsuccessful groups will be disappointed that they were not funded on this occasion but 35 groups were successful, including 14 newly funded projects.”

Regarding the Ombudsman referral, A council spokesman said: “We acted immediately on all the Ombudsman’s recommendations and sent a full apology and compensation to the lady we let down.”

H&F Council is currently being investigated for another case referred to the Ombudsman by THA allegedly ‘a lot, lot worse than the first’.

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