Charity at risk after council doesn't renew lease

Councillors John Scarola and Gavin Callaghan are not impressed at Basildon Council's move

Councillors John Scarola and Gavin Callaghan are not impressed at Basildon Council's move

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A POPULAR Basildon disabled charity could face closure after Basildon Council decided not to renew its lease at the Basildon Centre.

This is the view of DIAL manager, Jan Stevens, and opposition councillors, who say that now the charity doesn’t have a more stable home it could fold due to the £12,500 cost to make the move and running costs.

DIAL, which stands for Disablement Information and Advice Line, was set up in 1985 and will now be based at a small shop in Southernhay where they can only have a maximum six-month tenancy and could be evicted with only one-months notice.

It was announced in October 2012 that DIAL, who are based in the centre, would not be able to stay as the council weren’t going to renew their lease at the end of February, meaning they would have to find alternate residence.

Mrs Stevens, who has been the manager of the charity for the last 20 years said she didn’t know how long the charity would be able to keep going.

“It was a shock to be told we couldn’t stay. We hadn’t expected the news when it came which now leaves us in a really tricky position. Finding a new base has been really hard because we have to have specific to the needs of our disabled clients. We have been able to negotiate the rent with the landlord but at the cost of a short-term lease which is far from ideal.”

Mrs Stevens says that DIAL, which helped more than 7,500 people in 2012 with 20,000 inquiries, will now be working from one room and says the move will be expensive as they have to install £4,500 security shutters.

The move has also been treated with loud condemnation by the opposition, with labour councillors saying it is a “betrayal” and “scandalous.”

John Scarola, ward councillor for Laindon Park and trustee of DIAL, said it was a devastating blow to the charity. "The Conservative-led Council have condemned DIAL to the scrap heap. It is estimated that the cost of removal from the Basildon Centre to the rented shop will be £10,000. The council should pay every single penny after this betrayal."

Cllr Terri Sargent, cabinet member for community, said the decision was a tough but necessary one.

“In this case we require the space in the Basildon Centre to help improve the customer services and experience that we offer to residents.

“We have supported DIAL for many years with a heavily subsidised lease and we have continued this support by offering alternative council accommodation, all of which was rejected.

“Council officers are writing to DIAL to ask them to submit proposals to the Leader of the Council for a contribution towards relocation costs which will be considered when it is received.”

DIAL is expected to close on Monday, February 18 before potentially re-opening on Monday, March 4.

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