DISABLED people in Brent have been dealt a devastating blow after being told their day care centres will close.
Brent Council decided on Monday that Stonebridge Day Centre, in Stonebridge, Strathcona Day Centre, in Wembley and Albert Road Day Centre, in Kilburn will shut - despite fierce opposition from users and their carers.
Anjna Manek, who cares for her sister and helped lead the campaign against the closures, said: "Democratic involvement in Brent is just a joke. I was given five minutes to address the executive and, as a last-ditch attempt to get a workable solution for everyone, the carers wanted to put forward an alternative proposal.
"I was not able to do this in any sensible way within five minutes and so it was dismissed offhand. For a long time now we have suspected that decisions have been made some time ago."
Councillors made the decision despite receiving a 3,527-signature petition pleading to keep the centres open. Instead, they opted to close the centres, saving the council up to £1million in running costs and giving them the chance to make £4m from selling the properties.
Ms Manek said: "The petition was barely acknowledged at the meeting and didn't matter a jot."
Rina Hirani, 32, who helps care for her brother Nitin, added: "When they made their decision my heart sank. What had we been fighting for?
"The council has no consideration of how this will affect our lives."
A Brent Council spokesman said: "The decision to proceed with the Day Opportunities Strategy was made by politically elected members, following one of the most extensive and detailed consultations ever carried out by Brent Council.
"From August until November, 42 meetings were held at eight locations.
"Carers, volunteers and people who use day care were able to express their views and comment on the plans."
Figures obtained by the Observer under the Freedon of Information Act reveal the council spent £4.5m on consultancy in adult social care over the past three years, which had not been budgeted for, despite the fact the cash-strapped local authority planned to close the centres.
Ms Manek said: "I am staggered to hear that it has spent £4.5m, not exactly petty cash, on consultancy fees which were not budgeted and there are no contracts."