The ‘West End Extra’ reports;
“A PICTURE paints a thousand words… and this is the scene in Harrow Road where two offices that once provided invaluable advice to those in need have been forced to close.
The headquarters of Paddington Law Centre, which is the second oldest organisation of its kind in Britain, will be boarded up on Wednesday after more than 40 years of helping Westminster residents with legal matters ranging from an unfair dismissal at work to an unjust eviction at home.
Meanwhile the neighbouring Citizens Advice Bureau has closed and moved to Conduit Place in Paddington.
Westminster North MP Karen Buck sees this as characteristic of a worrying trend, which she described as a “massive withdrawal of services”.
She said: “The fact is that north Westminster, which is where almost all of the need is, is now an advice desert. It’s just gone.”
It follows the loss of Westminster Council’s OneStop advice centre and the police station, both in Harrow Road, and imminent closure of the Jubilee Sports Centre in nearby Caird Street.
Cuts to civil legal aid and a squeeze on funding from other sources has forced the collective of solicitors to close their offices.
They have entered a partnership with the Central London Law Firm and will be based in Soho, while continuing to provide legal advice in the north of borough.
Leroy Pitter, a solicitor at Paddington Law Centre, said: “We are going to continue to have a presence in W9 and will continue to provide the same level of service.
“We have shrunk from 13 people to five, largely because of a loss of funding over a number of years, and the building is far too big for our needs. So we’ve got to move to somewhere smaller.”
Ms Buck said: “This is all better than everybody being fired but they lose their distinctive premises and a distinctive presence, making it really hard to maintain an identity and carry on being able to bid for money and be a discreet presence.”
The charity store next door, the Human Relief Foundation, said they have been inundated with concerned residents dropping in to ask what was happening with the law centre.
Nicole Smith, of Elgin Avenue, said: “The people who worked there had helped me and most of my friends who live around here.
“I think a lot of them are worried because they’d been relying on the centre for help.”
Paddington Law Centre will be providing advice through Walterton and Elgin Community Homes and solicitors firm Lawrence & Co, both in Harrow Road.”