Alderson House, the Royal British Legion (RBL) Break Centre in Bridlington, is to close permanently at the end of February.
Around 40 full and part-time staff will lose their jobs as a result and the property will be sold.
A total of four break centres will be closed around the U.K. along with the Home Maintenance service that is also provided from each centre.
The decision comes after a period of consultation, with national RBL Board of Trustees confirming the charity will cease to operate the Bridlington Centre on South Marine Drive.
A spokesperson for the national RBL said: “ The Legion is creating a new strategy that will ensure it is having the greatest impact, making the most of its resources, and evolving in line with changes in the Armed Forces community.”
They added: “Since 2016 the charity has seen a 20% increase in people needing basic support with housing, financial issues, mental health and well-being and mobility. In this time, the average expenditure per household through the Legion’s immediate needs funding has risen 45% from £900 to £1330.”
But news of the closure has provoked angry reaction.
Martin Jolly said: “As chairman of the Bridlington Branch of the RBL if find the decision to close Alderson House and the other break centres an absolute disgrace. The trustees are losing a vital asset for beneficiaries and serving armed forces personnel.”
Martin continued: “I have witnessed first hand, (as a member of staff at Alderson House), how much the break centres help the wellbeing for veterans who may suffer from being in a dark place. There are also the families of serving personnel who have special time together.”
“We must not forget the professional and caring staff at Alderson house who go more than the extra mile to support the guests by delivering a fantastic service not just because it’s their job but as the best front line case workers the Board of Trustees seam to have forgotten about.” he said.
“I fear this unpopular decision will and is having an effect on our membership, when we want volunteers for the Poppy Appeal, manning stalls at events they will not be there …and how sad that after 100 years it would appear from the feedback I’m getting is that the charity has got it so wrong.” Martin added.
Mike Rubery, vice-chairman of Bridlington Royal Naval Association, was equally annoyed and upset by the decision.
“The changing face of the RBL forgets about the older guys who are the backbone of the RBL. The British Legion used to be run primarily by veterans for veterans – it is now run as a business. Social isolation amongst older veterans seems to have been pushed to the wayside.”
Mike added: “I have written to the board of trustees, via the RBL National PRO, to let them know how disgusted with the decision Bridlington veterans are. My closing line was… when you go home tonight tell them their tomorrows we took away today.”
The Royal British Legion’s Director General, Charles Byrne, said: “The modern day needs of the Armed Forces community are changing and it is our duty to change in response. We have closely considered all options for our organisation, and I believe the path we have chosen is the right one to make the greatest difference to those tackling the toughest challenges. “
“The decision to close our break centres and handy van service has not been taken lightly, and we are extremely sad it will ultimately lead to some of our colleagues leaving the charity. The affected staff have all contributed greatly to our work, they are part of our community, and we are doing all we can to support them in their next steps.
“I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the consultation process, and we will use the feedback to help sculpt our work moving forward.”
The ECHO has received many enquiries about the plans for the funds raised from the Mini-Bus Appeal. We put these to the RBL Head Office after they announced the money would be returned to donators. Here are the details.
Will all these funds be fully accountable as many donations were sent in on the back of the Echo appeal. Many donations are from RBL branches that have closed. What would happen to that money?
Having sought legal advice on how we are permitted to use funds raised for a specific purpose, we believe the most responsible course of action in these circumstances is to make every effort to return the funds donated as they can no longer be used for their original purpose. We estimate that around £68,000 of the monies raised was kindly donated by Royal British Legion branches, including a number of national branches. We will return all donations to these branches, as well as to individuals who donated. In the event that branches have closed since their donation was made, we will seek further legal advice on how we can best utilise these funds for the benefit of people we support in the local area. We will do the same with any residual money left over which we are unable to return. We will keep the local community informed as we progress through this process.
Will you be producing a list for the Echo and our readers to scrutinise?
It wouldn’t be appropriate to publish details of donations given by individuals. We will be making contact with branches, organisations and individuals directly to thank them again for their kind donations and to return their monies to them. We are keen to work with the Echo to keep the local community involved.
The Echo produced a calendar, free of charge, and sold advertising to help cover the costs. Surely this must be accountable?
We are extremely grateful for the support that the Echo and the people of Bridlington have given to Alderson House and the Legion over the years, and recognise the extraordinary lengths that the newspaper and the wider community has gone to in order to support the minibus appeal. We are extremely proud of everything we have achieved in our Break Centres. This has been a very difficult decision but our main aim is to ensure that we are using our funds in the most effective way possible to address the most urgent and desperate needs within the community. The closure of Alderson House does not mean that we are withdrawing support in this area, this will continue to be provided through the work of our area and regional teams and other Legion services.
Has the Echo’s suggestion that the money being used for local premises been considered? The strength of feeling in the town is that we need a meeting point for service groups and the Poppy Club.
We have given careful consideration to ideas put forward by the Echo and by members of staff on how we can continue to support the local Armed Forces community in Bridlington. Until the final decision regarding the future of Alderson House was made by our Board of Trustees, it would not have been appropriate to have proceeded with any actions relating to this. Now that a decision has been made, we will be actively exploring options to ensure that the Poppy Club is supported going forward and that we can work effectively with partner organisations in the local area. We will shortly be recruiting a new member of Legion staff co-ordinate the Poppy Club and to maintain links with partners in the Bridlington area. Part of their remit will be to establish a new premises for the Poppy Club. Once we have recruited into this role, which we intend to do in February, we will engage with the local community and with the Echo to explore ideas including, if appropriate, a meeting point for service groups.