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Pensioner, 94, left in tears as Newham Council rent charge forces bingo club to shut

PUBLISHED: 14:10 14 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:28 14 August 2017

Older residents of the bingo group at the Jack Cornwell Community Centre

Older residents of the bingo group at the Jack Cornwell Community Centre

Archant

A group of pensioners are “devastated” that their bingo club is to shut after 40 years due to hiked rental costs by the council.

Elderly members of the group, who meet every Thursday night at the Jack Cornwell Community Centre in Manor Park, say they only have enough money for one last session.

They have been struggling to meet the weekly hall hire cost of £81 since Newham Council introduced the charge in October.

One 94-year-old woman is said to have been in tears about the closure, according to bingo regular Eva Rodwell who herself is in her seventies.

“What is she going to do?” said the former Sugar Girl who once worked at Tate & Lyle’s East End factory.

“I’d be devastated if it had to close. If you live on your own there are not many places you can go.

“There’s nothing to look forward to now. Lots of the members are over 80 and it’s their only night out, we’re really upset.”

A £2,000 grant given to the club by the council ran out in March with members now resorting to fundraising activities and an entrance fee to make ends meet.

However organiser Emelda Ballah-Douglas said it was not enough to cover the £81 rent, adding: “It is like a money-making machine now.”

A Newham Council spokesman said the charges for hiring rooms did not always cover the costs of staffing, heating and lighting and nearly £300,000 had been invested so far which could have gone into other community initiatives and activities.

He said: “In the face of severe cuts to our government funding we cannot expect residents to continue subsiding groups using our centres, which is why a new charging policy was introduced last year.

“We have worked hard to support this specific group, including providing them with a £2,000 grant to help them develop ways to become more sustainable.

“We have also offered to find alternative time slots at cheaper periods of the day and help them in finding alternative sources of funding to support the club – both of these offers still stand.”

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