COUNCILLORS have voted to shut down a "beloved" day centre despite pleas from users.

The plans could leave 72 regular Tower House Day Centre visitors looking for somewhere else to go and put 14 staff at risk of redundancy.

All but one councillor and health expert sitting on the health and wellbeing board supported Brighton and Hove City Council officers' recommendations to close the centre at a meeting yesterday.

The final decision will be made at the council's policy and resources committee next Thursday [28/4].

Tony Griffin, who was forced to retire after a brain injury volunteered at the centre for two years, previously warned the decision would leave users distraught.

Speaking at yesterday's meeting he warned councillors would miss an opportunity if they did not keep the centre open. He praised its wonderful staff and friendly atmosphere which helped many to grow in confidence and socialise.

Board member and Green group leader Phelim MacCafferty said the way the consultation was carried out was not how it was originally agreed and that some of the claims in the council report were "misleading".

He added: "The comments [from users] are really heartbreaking and incredibly moving. The majority of people who responded to the consultation wanted it to stay open."

Councillor Karen Barford agreed it was a "complex, emotional issue" but said she was assured existing users would get the help they need and insisted the consultation was carried out appropriately and all options explored.

Chairman Daniel Yates said it was clear Tower House was a well regarded service and stressed any decision is not a reflection on the staff or users.

Previously the council said demand for the centre was falling with capacity of only between 50 per cent and 83 per cent so it was no longer viable. But a report also acknowledged since November there had been no new referrals to the centre because people had been offered alternatives by social services.

The closure will save the council £230,000 a year but officers insisted a number of options had first been explored to see if the centre could stay open, but none were possible.

Council officer Karin Divall said the freeholder of the building had been contacted by letter, phone and email to discuss the future of the building but they did not respond.

There were concerns over the future of the building and councillors expressed a wish for it to remain available for community use.

Council chief executive Geoff Raw said efforts would continue to be made to contact the freeholder before the final decision was made.