The County You Live, Work And Play
Fight To Save Coalyard Tearoom
Thousands of people blasted South Lanarkshire Council’s proposals to close a popular learning disability cafe that helps young people find work.
More than 2500 have signed a petition to save Larkhall’s Coalyard Tearoom, kitchen and laundry within a few days of it being set up.
The tearoom based in Caledonian Road – a project run in partnership between the council, New College Lanarkshire (Motherwell College Campus) and the community – helps those with additional support needs learn skills which will prepare them for employment, as well as develop skills for everyday living.
Mary Monaghan, whose son Kevin was one of the first Coalyard students, said: “When I heard that South Lanarkshire Council had decided to close the tearoom as part of their savings, I was appalled.”
The young people access the project from school, college or by a social work referral. However, South Lanarkshire Council last week revealed plans to close the popular facility as part of budget cut proposals for 2016/17.
That angered thousands who have used the facility since it first opened its doors in 2000.
Many have hit out at the council over the proposals and have branded them a “disgrace” and “short-sighted.”
Larkhall Community Council launched an online petition to ask others to join them in their fight to save the tearoom. It has netted more than 2500 signatures and many have left comments about why they are supporting the project.
Wendy Hutton of Larkhall , said: “It’s a disgrace this place is being closed down. This premises is the home to many hard-working people who deserve it.
“Save the Coalyard! It’s 2015 for goodness sake!”
Audrey Steel said: “Why cut services that provide such vital experiences to these wonderful people? Madness. It’s a fantastic opportunity for people with a disability to reach their potential.”
Demi Powell said: “Devastating for the individuals involved, heartbreaking for the community and short-sighted for the long-term future of the economy.”
Hamilton East MP Angela Crawley urged South Lanarkshire Council to re-think their proposals. She said: “The Coalyard is a community institution – it has played a huge role in enabling disabled individuals across Lanarkshire into work and providing opportunities and further support to those that need it most.
“I know how much value this institution has to the community and the impact it will have if it is closed. The Coalyard needs council funding but the community needs the Coalyard. That’s why I would urge South Lanarkshire Council to look at their proposals again and continue to invest in this worthy project.”
Christina McKelvie, MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, also plans to join the fight to save the Coalyard. She said: “I will oppose the closure of not just the Coalyard but the other learning disability cafes that provide employment for the people trained at the Coalyard.”
Jackie Burns, Larkhall councillor and deputy leader of the council, said: “These proposals and discussions are likely to continue following last week’s meeting. There is no doubt this is a great initiative and a decision has not yet been made by the council. However the authority has a legal duty and requirement to set a budget and there are lots of difficult decisions to be made.”
Fellow Larkhall councillor Andy Carmichael said: “This is one proposal which I don’t agree with and I will be doing everything in my power to get it to resolve to a suitable and satisfying conclusion.”
Council leader Eddie McAvoy said: “The whole of the public sector is under budget pressure and the council’s grant from government has suffered real-term cuts in recent years. We don’t expect Ministers to tell us what our grant will be for next year for several more weeks but we are obliged to balance our budget and officers have developed plans based on potential savings we might be forced to make.
“I would stress that these are just options at the moment and that councillors will have an opportunity to examine the proposals fully and make their own suggestions. The challenge to all councillors is that if we reject any proposals in the package we need to find other, fully-costed, ways to save the money. The bottom line is that some tough decisions will have to be taken in these difficult economic times, but we will do everything possible to protect key frontline services."