Disabled charity feels ‘betrayed’ after claiming council told it to leave building

Joanne Munn, 59, is currently the chief executive of XbyX (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

The service was set up in 2012 and currently operates in Lewis House in Beckenham Road, Beckenham.

Ms Munn said the charity originally held a tender from the council to operate in the building until the end of 2022, with the option to extend the contract by two years at that point.

She said: “One day out of the blue in 2021, a local resident contacted us and said they had heard that our building was going to be knocked down.”

Bromley council documents from a meeting in June 2021 said officers had begun conversations with adult services to relocate XbyX from Lewis House. This was reportedly done while the authority was considering building a set of 26 flats on the site.

Upon learning the plans, Ms Munn said she arranged an emergency meeting with the council.

She claimed: “They said there was absolutely no way they were going to knock the building down. Then they said they were doing some sort of feasibility study for the car park next to the building, so they said it was a miscommunication.”

Ms Munn said council officers told her that XbyX would be given an equally suitable or better premises if Lewis House was to be vacated, and asked for a list of what a potential new building would need for the charity to run.

She said that the service was later told in October 2022 that the charity’s contract for Lewis House would only be extended by one year instead of two.

Ms Munn said she was later told in January 2023 that XbyX would be protected and options for a new premises were being assessed, before being told to move the disabled equipment back into council offices at a meeting in March.

She said: “I asked what we should do and they said ‘nothing. We’re not going to support you anymore. We’re not going to commission you’. It was like a complete bolt out of the blue.

“I can’t tell you how I felt in that meeting. It was like someone had hit me with a sledgehammer. It was so unexpected.”

Ms Munn said the disability service given by XbyX was to be taken back in-house to be provided by the council, and that she had taken the authority’s assurances out of context. She said the charity was asked to move out of Lewis House by the end of the year.

She said: “It was a shock, complete shock, I just couldn’t believe it. Just anger and betrayal. I felt utterly betrayed.”

She added she feared the charity will not be able to survive without a physical location. Ms Munn claimed the price for the charity to privately rent another premises could be double what it was paying at Lewis House, which has been made more difficult by its lack of funding.

A petition to save the building has been started and is approaching 500 signatures.

Bromley council was approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.

Pictured top: Joanne Munn, 59, shown outside Lewis House in Beckenham (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

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