A DECISION on a base for adults with learning disabilities will be back before councillors more than a year since the closure of a day centre was agreed. 

Councillors will meet to look again at a decision to base the My Day, My Life support service at the Melville Centre, in Abergavenny, rather than its former home at Tudor Street, on Thursday, December 7 – exactly a year to the day a protest was staged at the shuttered centre that kickstarted a campaign to reopen it. 

That appeared lost in November when Monmouthshire council’s Labour-led cabinet decided the service, which is still operating, should be housed at the Melville Arts Centre. That would provide it with a room users could visit regularly to meet with each other and staff as well as plan group and individual activities. 

But the council’s People Scrutiny committee, had to decide whether to accept the cabinet’s decision when it met on Friday, December 1 after it was “called in” by three opposition councillors.

The cross-party committee voted by five to four to refer it to the full council which will have to decide whether to accept the cabinet decision or ask it to reconsider. 

Conservative councillor for Usk, Tony Kear, who had called the decision in, said he had done so having followed the cabinet’s discussions. 

He said he didn’t believe the evidence supported the the Melville and said: “It should be handed back to the full council.” 

Cllr Kear questioned the £150,000 cost to bring the Tudor Centre, that closed at the beginning of the Covid pandemic in March 2020 and has never reopened, back into use. He said the Melville has a “leaking roof and water damage” and is a listed building which would likely have higher ongoing maintenance costs than Tudor Street. 

The Melville will also need to be made accessible and Cllr Kear said there was little detail about that and when it would be completed. The cabinet was told work could be funded by the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity fund and the committee was told it’s estimated alterations could take 12 to 16 weeks. 

Work to the Melville is estimated at £135,000 and Chepstow Conservative Christopher Edwards said “it must be a first” for work to a listed building to cost less than work to one which isn’t listed. 

Caldicot Labour councillor Jackie Strong said she had been contacted by a member of The Gathering – a community group formed from the Tudor Centre campaign which is now developing plans to support vulnerable adults in the community with support from the council – who said they were “saddned” by the call in at it was “another delay” in the process. 

Rogiet member Peter Strong said he disagreed with the reasons for the call in, which were a claimed lack of pre-decision scrutiny and community engagement. The Labour councillor said the decision has been examined through the council and had developed from questioning if a building was necessary to the point the cabinet has agreed a proposed base and the interim solution of the former tourist information centre in Abergavenny. 

Cabinet member for social care Ian Chandler said a review of the My Day, My Life service had been accepted by the cabinet and its findings received the “broad support” of the People Scrutiny committee

The Green Party councillor also disputed the cabinet had claimed its consultation with the 11 My Day, My Life users in Abergavenny had “expressed a preference for the Melville.” 

Cllr Chandler said: “We never said that. The report said there was no strong preference for any of the three options in Abergavenny.” 

Jenny Jenkins, the council’s head of adult services, said: “From a service perspective all of this delay and confusion is not helpful to the service or the people who use it.” 

Two public speakers also spoke at the meeting. Professor David Abbot, who has researched services for people with disabilities for 25 years, said the Welsh Learning Disabilities conference had this week “heard first hand” of the impact of changes and closures of services since the pandemic. 

He said that included a film which featured “local legend” Sarah Griffiths from Abergavenny and the professor said: “She talked about feeling much less hopeful and positive about her life now Tudor Street had closed and for reasons that have never been clear to her she’s no longer eligible to use the service.” 

Chris Edmundson, a full time carer for her husband who has a brain injury, said there was no support services available and said basing My Day, My Life at Tudor Street would help The Gathering’s plans to develop it as a base to support a wider range of people in the community. 

The full council will debate the cabinet’s decision when it meets at County Hall, Usk on Thursday, December 7 at 2pm.