THE closure of Bournemouth Women’s Refuge was an officer decision, according to a letter seen by the Echo. 

Women living at the centre have already been given a 28-day eviction notice to vacate the safe house after BCP Council announced its closure.  

The centre is operated by Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA) with support and funding from the council, and currently houses around 18 women and their children. 

Bournemouth councillor Duane Farr received a letter from BCP’s director of communities Kelly Deane, who said the closure was an “officer decision as it is not a key decision requiring cabinet approval”. 

“However, this overrides proper process as it can't be an officer decision since this decision affects more than one ward,” Cllr Farr said. 

BCP Council's spokesman argued correct procedure has been followed, adding key decisions are those where spending or saving is over £500k or is "likely to have a significant effect on communities living or working in an area of one or more wards".

Anger and frustration has been aimed at BCP Council since the Echo first uncovered in May the council’s decision to close it. 

Kesch Roff, from the Bournemouth-based non-profit domestic abuse group Treasure, said the closure has sent “ripples through the community” and called for further explanation from the council. 

She said: “This closure brings a profound sadness, highlighting a grim reality about our future. Domestic abuse statistics are not decreasing annually; if anything, the need for support services is growing.  

“The loss of this refuge means a critical lifeline for many will be severed, potentially leaving victims without the support they desperately need.” 

She warned the closure will “inadvertently” empower perpetrators, thus making it harder for victims to leave dangerous situations. 

Cllr John BeesleyCllr John Beesley hit out at the decision

Cllr Farr said: “In my view it's an appallingly short-sighted decision, completely by-passing any scrutiny from councillors.  

“To be frank I’m very disappointed the council leader councillor Vikki Slade has allowed this to happen.” 

Shadow finance councillor John Beesley said he is “appalled at the insensitivity” of the decision and the way BCP Council has handled the situation. 

He added: “The decision has been driven by financial considerations and shows very clearly that those responsible work to the old adage of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing."

BCP Council said the closure was "very carefully considered" after an independent review by Standing Together found the refuge was "unsuitable".

“The review included a full consultation with residents and staff at the BCHA refuge, and those with lived experiences of domestic abuse," a spokesman said.

“They also sought extensive advice from several providers across the country on alternative forms of refuge delivery to better understand their benefits and challenges.

“The independent review, assessment and advice highlighted the BCHA refuge is no longer suitable for women and families in need of support as it offers shared accommodation in an outdated, listed building which cannot be adapted to those with disabilities. This led to concerns this was compromising the safety of those we support."