Angry pensioners have hit out at council chiefs over plans to make changes their “lifeline” service.

Residents and users of Vennel Gardens in East Road say they are furious that North Ayrshire Council are planning to extend the eight-hours-a day service to 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Service users say the extra hours means current service providers, the Community Led Action Support Service (CLASP), will likely be unable to afford to continue to run the programme - news which has left them devastated and fearful for the future of the facility.

Rosemary Byrne, chair of the Irvine Seniors Forum, said: “North Ayrshire Council are pushing to open this facility 9am-9pm, but it’s extra hours which are just not needed. All of our residents and users are in the house by tea time and don’t tend to go out after 6pm, unless it’s for a special occasion.

“It has got us all very, very worried. For most of the users this place is a vital lifeline and they are wanting to change it for no good reason.”

Mrs Byrne also claims, despite repeat calls to Councillor Robert Foster to visit the facility and put residents minds at rest, he has not been forthcoming.

She said: “I have been in touch with him numerous times and told him about this meeting and others and he told me I had no right to be organising any meetings. We have also asked him to come here, to the facility and speak to the users, but so far he has not arranged a visit.”

But Councillor Foster refuted Mrs Byrne’s claims.

He said: “It is absolutely incorrect to state that there has been no response to emails – indeed there has been a significant amount of email correspondence.

“Within all of these emails I have stressed that the service will continue. It is categorically not under threat.

“I have also repeatedly stated that I will visit Vennel Gardens very soon and have been arranging this visit through the Health and Social Care Partnership. The suggestion that requests to meet have been ignored is not only wrong but deeply disappointing.”

Users of the facility, however feel they have been kept in the dark. John Gray, 78, lives the high flats at Fullarton, but visits Vennel Gardens regularly.

He said: “We just can’t understand why they are wanting to change anything. We need this facility and it is just fine the way it is being run just now. If these councillors actually cared about what we think, why don’t they come down here and ask us?”

Alice Morrison, 83, added: “I live in Dreghorn and I was so, so lonely I ended up in hospital, depressed. I have been better since I started coming here and the thought of it changing or closing is not worth thinking about. ”

However North Ayrshire’s Health and Social Care Partnership insisted the facility was not “at risk”, despite users’ fears.

A spokesman said: “We are committed to offering a range of services aimed at supporting people to have healthy, active and fulfilling lives. CLASP has been delivering these services within Vennel Gardens since 2015, and subsequently Montgomery Court from January 2017.

“In order to secure these services into the future, North Ayrshire Council, who commission services on behalf of the Partnership, is legally obliged to adhere to Procurement Regulations. Therefore, a Prior Information Notice was published on Public Contracts Scotland, with a final closing date of 8 June 2017. 

“We are currently in discussion with CLASP regarding the management and co-ordination of services while we look to establish a long-term contract.”

David Dugan, Project Manager at CLASP said: “Talks are ongoing so it would be inappropriate to comment at this time, but we remain hopeful for a positive resolution.”