This is the ECHO’s lead story this month.
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Alderson House in Bridlington is earmarked for closure as part of a cost cutting exercise by the National Royal British Legion.
Staff were informed of the shock closure just over a week after Remembrance Sunday, with the national RBL stating that the money saved would be spent on other services such as welfare provision.
The Alderson House centre has 25 bedrooms, which include family rooms, and provides free holidays for both serving armed forces members and veterans along with their families. Guests can also participate in trips to local tourist attractions.
There has been angry reaction locally to the plans, with one Navy veteran vowing to fight the proposed closure.
Royal Naval Association veteran Mike Rubery said: “I urge those who can help to fight the plans. If we don’t let the national RBL and their representatives know how disappointed we feel then the proposal for closure will go ahead unopposed.”
Around forty full and part-time staff work at the South Marine Drive centre in Bridlington, with dozens more volunteering to help with activities and fundraising.
The ECHO has spoken to the National RBL and has asked eight questions relating to the proposed closure.
After a 22-month ECHO appeal to fund a specially adapted minibus for Alderson House, a grand total of £75,000 was raised with plans in place for the vehicle to be delivered to the centre next year. At present the national RBL are seeking legal advice in regard to the funds raised.
The Royal British Legion Alderson House on South Marine Drive in Bridlington is set to close permanently.
In a statement from RBL Headquarters, a spokesperson has said that a strategic review was underway, with a plan for more personalised case work with external specialist and localised organisations.
The Legion is now consulting with staff members about proposals on closing a total of four Break Centres, which include Alderson House in Bridlington, and discontinuing their home maintenance ‘Handy Van’ service. It is understood that forty full and part time staff are employed the Centre in Bridlington and they were informed during a meeting of the proposed closure on 19th November.
Martin Jolly, Chairman of the Royal British Legion, said: “It’s a sad day for the beneficiaries and all the staff at Alderson House. It’s a great facility and has been beneficial for thousands and is a focal point for the town.”
Alderson House has been a permanent fixture in the town for decades, with thousands of military veterans and their families enjoying breaks at centre.
The ECHO recently raised over £75,000 to help pay for a specially adapted minibus for Alderson House. Money was donated from events held in and around the town over a 22-month period with hundreds of people embracing the appeal. It was understood that a mini-bus would be purchased with the proceeds early next year. At this stage it is not known what will happen with these specifically donated funds and the National Royal British Legion are seeking legal advice on how to proceed.
Below is part of the statement from the RBL in London.
“The Legion is taking action to evolve in line with the changing environment and meet the complex needs of the people we support. Under our emerging strategy the Legion will refocus resource to be as effective as possible in our welfare provision whilst enhancing regional and local campaigning and Remembrance activities. We are proposing to invest more in personalised case work, strengthen our collaborative work by funding external specialist and localised organisations, and reinvigorate our care model for older veterans. However, to enable us to refocus our funding to where it has the greatest impact, we are proposing to stop some of our current work. The Legion is now consulting with staff members about proposals on closing our four Break Centres, which include Alderson House in Bridlington, and discontinuing our home maintenance ‘Handy Van’ service. We do not make these proposals lightly and we are well aware of the impact the proposals could have on our staff who have made hugely valuable contributions to the charity’s work. Over the coming months we will be ensuring our staff’s voices are heard and that they play a vital part in the decisions that we face.Throughout its history the Legion has responded to the changes in the Armed Forces community and the landscape the charity operates within. Discussing these proposals is a necessary step for the Legion in order to adapt and help the Armed Forces community tackle their toughest challenges today. The current proposals form part of a wider programme of work as the Legion creates a new strategy to ensure the charity is having the greatest impact, making the most of its resources, and evolving in line with changes around us. Consultation around the Legion’s current proposals is expected to last until early 2020, when the decisions will be announced. Our community and supporters deserve the very best from us, and it is our responsibility to ensure the Legion is providing relevant services that meet the needs of today’s Armed Forces community, and that the generous donations given to us by the public are used in the most impactful way. We are taking the opportunity to make the Legion fit for the next 100 years.”
The ECHO asked the National Royal British Legion eight Questions about the proposed closure of Alderson House…..here are the responses.1. The Poppy Appeal alone raises tens of millions of pounds annually and part of the remit of that appeal is the ongoing aftercare of veterans both young and old….is the closure of the Break Centre’s purely financial and what benefit will be gained.
The proposed closure of the Break Centre is not financially driven. The funds we have raised during the Poppy Appeal will be spent as always on the welfare of our beneficiaries who range from the youngest children of veterans and serving personnel all the way to our oldest Second World War veterans.
The proposals are the culmination of work we have been doing over the past 12 months and are about creating a strategy and structure which will support the Legion to ensure we can reach more of the people eligible for our support and help the Armed Forces community tackle their toughest challenges. These proposed changes will enable us to refocus resource to be as effective as possible and to use the funds we have to answer the most urgent calls for help within our community.
2. Around 40 full and part-time staff will be affected by the Bridlington closure alone. What plans have you to help them.
A total of 153 staff may be affected if the proposals go ahead. We are committed to minimising redundancies and will find suitable alternative employment for affected individuals wherever we can. We are putting in place measures such as certain recruitment controls to ensure that we do not bring in new permanent staff from outside of the organisation as we work towards these changes. This is designed to ensure we have the maximum number of posts available which may offer alternative employment for employees in positions that may be redundant. During the course of the consultation we are also keen to hear alternative ideas and suggestions for ways in which we could reduce the number of possible redundancies or minimise their impact.
3. What is the position with the contents of Alderson House (ie donated equipment, memorabilia etc).
As we are currently in the proposal stage, no firm plans have been made for the contents of the properties. Our current priority is talking with our community. If the proposals go ahead, our commercial and local teams will determine the best option for physical assets with specific care given to the items that have been donated to the centres over the years.
4. Do the RBL own Alderson House and if so what is the plan for the building as it is in a prime position within the town.
The Legion does own the freehold for all the centres. If the proposals go ahead we will determine the best option for the buildings to ensure that the Trustees of the charity receive the best value in accordance with their Charities Act obligations.
5. The Bridlington Echo led a specific appeal to fund a new minibus for the benefit of both visitors and the local RBL clubs. Over £75,000 had been raised from donations, mainly local, towards this vehicle. What will happen to these funds?
We are currently seeking legal advice on how we proceed in regard to funds raised for a specific purpose.
6. National RBL state that this proposal is at a consultation stage, but I understand that all staff have been issued with redundancy information. Why say it’s under consultation when it isn’t.
We are using the collective consultation process to collate all ideas and proposals to avoid, reduce the number of, or minimise the effects of redundancies. At the point when we agree with the employee representatives that the consultation has come to an end, the final proposal will be agreed by the Executive Board and communicated to everyone. As these proposals would result in redundancies if they went ahead it is right and proper to share information about the redundancy process while in consultation for the understanding of all our staff.
7. What provision, if any, is there for the RBL activities in the town. Alderson House was used as a meeting place for lots of clubs and groups and was regarded as a community hub.
We know how much-loved and well used the Break Centre properties are, and we are committed to finding alternative arrangements if the proposals go ahead. This is one of the elements that our local teams will be reviewing to identify possible solutions.
8. Bridlington has a large number of ex-services and veterans living in the town. Any message for them?
Supporting the Armed Forces community has always been and will remain the Legion’s number one priority. The needs of our community are changing, and the Legion has a responsibility to change with them. These are difficult conversations to come to the right decision and we do not make these proposals lightly. The Legion’s strength is in its community, including our staff who have made hugely valuable contributions to the charity’s work and if the proposals go ahead, we would hope to offer as many of them as possible alternative roles. Our main aim is to make the right choices for the future sustainability of the charity and support the most vulnerable in our community. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are providing the right services, that will have the biggest impact for people.