Friendship House – the much loved community centre for the elderly has served the community for over 50 years providing group activities, lifeline social contact, hot meals and so much more.
The building stands in the heart of the community near to Hatfield Town Centre near to the former Conservative Club which the party chose to demolish and build flats upon in 2018. A charity, Hatfield and District Age Concern ran the facility on a not for profit basis.
In 2012 the Conservative run Borough Council decided to cut the funding the center received to provide meals to the elderly service users. The local paper ran a story on residents who attended the meeting to protest these cutbacks labelling them as “foul mouthed hard left activists” The Charity continued to offer this crucial meal service using their own reserves.
In 2014 the Conservatives again decided to cut the funding it provided to this service despite outrage and desperate pleas from the community and Labour Councillors that this would spell the end of the service.
Just weeks after voting to cut funding to the service for the second time in two years, Conservative Councillors posed for a photograph with Conservative MP Grant Shapps holding posters saying they had “saved” the facility with this image being placed on the front page of the Welwyn Hatfield Times and emailed out to residents by Grant Shapps the day before local elections in 2014.
After struggling on despite these cuts, the charity announced that it had no choice but to close its doors in December last year
The building itself now faces an uncertain future while the Council look at options to ‘extract maximum value’ from the asset – which could mean demolition to clear space for future development.
Labour Councillor Lenny Brandon said:
“Friendship House provided vital services to the elderly of our community for decades and it is a great shame that they have closed their doors after so long.
Years ago I attended a meeting as a member of the public and I watched the Conservatives unapologetically vote to cut the funding the Council gave to Friendship House and simply didn’t care what impact it would have. Now they seem to be hellbent on demolishing the building entirely just because they can make money out of building on it. There is nothing wrong with the building, and there are community groups ready to take it on.
It’s disgusting that the Conservatives ran down a not for profit service, and are now are putting profit before people by denying anyone else the chance to use a perfectly good community asset.”