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Does council wants to sell our centre for luxury flats?

PUBLISHED: 21:11 28 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:09 05 October 2010

Students at the Bethnal Green Centre under threat

Students at the Bethnal Green Centre under threat

Dear Editor, BRINGING schoolchildren into the equation in the debate over the future of the Bethnal Green Centre is a cynical, transparent and futile attempt by Tower Hamlets council at diversionary tactics

Dear Editor,

BRINGING schoolchildren into the equation in the debate over the future of the Bethnal Green Centre is a cynical, transparent and futile attempt by Tower Hamlets council at diversionary tactics.

Council property development officers get paid £56,000 a year. For this, we can expect them to come up with some clever ideas of how to get their hands on a site worth millions.

To say we need to close classes to make way for a school for two years is a bit like saying we need to close the fire station to make way for the ambulance depot.

Our centre provides people with learning, mental and physical disabilities with equality, empowerment and skill. Pensioners who remember Spitfires in dog fights over East London during the Battle of Britain in 1941 mix in workshops with pregnant mums and people from all races and classes in a safe environment. It occupies their hands and minds and encourages community and unity.

Councillor Clair Hawkins visited the centre on March 20. She cannot possibly have expected the tirade of furious anger that met her from the packed canteen of 120 tutors and students.

One student told her she couldn't read before she came to the centre. Wheelchair-bound biker 'Spike' brought along a beautiful carved wooden motorcycle as an example of his humbling skill and staggering patience.

Students asked Cllr Hawkins why the schoolchildren couldn't be housed in the Rich Mix arts centre further along Bethnal Green-road. She replied that there were 'management problems.'

Funny that she feels the management of Rich Mix are more important than the people who have made the Bethnal Green centre their 'home.'

She said there were no firm plans for Bethnal Green Centre once the schoolchildren had moved out.

This smacks of either incompetence or fiction, as the building has 'loft apartments' written all over it.

Anyone under 19 can come here free, to harness their creative rather than destructive talents.

Would we rather they were in the centre learning car maintenance, stained glass making and weight lifting?

Or rather on the streets stealing cars, smashing glass and weighing out crack?

Meanwhile, management at the centre have warned tutors they face disciplinary action if they talk to the press without going through the Town Hall press office!

But the press office, of course, will only give the council's side of the story and keep secret from students the planned class closures in September.

Tutors are on temporary contracts which say we mustn't "bring the council into disrepute" - that's tantamount to intimidation! It restricts freedom of speech.

Security people have been told not to admit the press - which is why I have put pen to paper and forwarded photos from students.

Tony Blair told us, "Things can only get better." Yeah, right! They take the carrot and we take the stick.

Member, support group

Bethnal Green Centre, Bethnal Green-rd, Bethnal Green

(Name and address supplied)

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