ASSURANCES have been given that closing the much-loved Hollies Day Centre in Musselburgh is “not on anyone’s radar”.

Speaking at a meeting of the local community council, Councillor Fiona O’Donnell, East Lothian Council’s cabinet spokeswoman for health and social care, said the High Street facility was not under threat but stressed the need to provide extra day care spaces for dementia sufferers in the area.

She said: “I do acknowledge there is uncertainty but there is uncertainty for the council and the Hollies because the Hollies can make a choice here as well.

“There is no threat of closure for the Hollies at all – it is not on anyone’s radar.

“It’s what the shape of the service is going forward and that could be really exciting when you think of some of the possibilities.”

Ms O’Donnell said that all the county’s day centres were now registered with the Care Inspectorate and all staff were going through SVQ training.

She added: “We have 10 day centres [across East Lothian]. The other nine are on a new contract but the Hollies is different because just now it is only registered for eight people – the others are all at 16.

“The Hollies is continuing to be funded under the present formula, the one it had historically, certainly up until the end of the financial year.

“We have only got eight places here in Musselburgh, which is the largest town in the county. It can’t be that in Musselburgh there are fewer people needing the service, so we need to increase the capacity.

“There is a 100-year lease and I think you would risk being very unwelcome in Musselburgh if you even talked about closing the Hollies.

“It is so much more than a day centre, it is a real hub within the community.”

Ms O’Donnell said that, because the Hollies was independent from the council, it would invite the Care Inspectorate to carry out an assessment, as despite being registered for two years it has not been inspected.

She said that this was to look at the building and facilities to see if anything needed to be changed to make it a “safe and nurturing” environment for eight people and what would need to be done to make it suitable for 16 people with dementia.

Ms O’Donnell highlighted three options: 1, that the Hollies expanded provision to 16 people; 2, it continued to provide eight places and somewhere else was found for the rest; or 3, that its management decided that it did not want to be in a contract with the council, so a new place would have to be found to provide 16 spaces.

She added: “We have got a unique way of providing day care in East Lothian for older people. I think it is to be cherished.

“In a community like this it really draws on the strength of Musselburgh and the capacity of this community to fundraise and support the Hollies – you don’t want to lose that.”

Irene Tait, community council chairwoman, stressed that the Hollies had the backing of everyone in the town and only had to say it needed something and there would be fundraising.

She said: “It is ideally suited in the town centre.

“People can go to the shops while they are out as well and you couldn’t have that if you were in a field in the middle of nowhere.”

Ward councillor Stuart Currie said that the Hollies always seemed to be raising money for structural work to the building, which was owned by the council He said: “It is a bit like leasing a flat to somebody and asking them to reroof it or build an extension. That’s my worry.

“Whatever happens in the future, fundraising needs to be about providing services for the elderly, not about bricks and mortar.”

Ms O’Donnell said that it had been found that the Hollies was contributing more than was thought, adding: “The ongoing maintenance of it is a concern and, as it is used by the wider community, you want to keep the facilities up-to-date.”

Liz Shannon, manager at the Hollies, later said: “It will be a relief to all users of the Hollies to hear assurances have been given that the closure of our building is not on anyone’s radar.

“The need to provide more spaces in a day centre in the largest town in East Lothian is evident.

“Hannah Martin from the Care Inspectorate is visiting this Friday to give her opinion on whether the Hollies can be adapted to accommodate 16 care spaces.

“However, the Hollies is far more than just the day centre and we hope to continue to improve the more positive relationship with East Lothian Council.

“We will, however, consider all options carefully.”