THERE were tears in the eyes of parents and councillors alike as the decision to close a disabled day centre was confirmed.

Despite strong public protests and impassioned pleas from the parents of the four severely-disabled men who use the Pershore Care Centre, Worcestershire County Council's scrutiny committee yesterday confirmed the decision of ruling Conservative councillors to shut the centre for good.

Parents wept in disappointment and Pershore's Liberal Democrat Councillor Liz Tucker was teary-eyed as she rebuked the cabinet for "spending £800,000 on decorating their own council chamber, when they can't find a bit of money to help these people." Yesterday's meeting offered the last realistic opportunity to save the specialist care centre, which will now be shut later this summer to make savings of around £85,000 a year.

Parents of the disabled men fought back tears as they pleaded with the committee not to allow the closure of the centre where their children have been looked after for more than 20 years.

"This is what keeps our sons alive," said Judith Hall. "My son is furious. No-one has asked him what he wants. This is about separating him from his friends, from the carers who have taken years to come to understand him and his needs. I think at best you could describe this decision as discrimination. At worst it is neglect."

In an epic confrontation lasting well over three hours, council officers and Tory cabinet member Councillor Phillip Gretton were grilled by the cross-party committee on the reasons behind their decision.

The head of adult and community services Eddie Clarke insisted the four men would actually receive better care at larger day centres in Worcester and Evesham, where they will mix with a broader range of disabled people.

"They will have more choice within the service," he said. "If they need quiet time they can have it, if they are able to mix with less disabled people they can do that as well."

He said larger, integrated' centres were now seen as the best model, rather than the smaller specialist centres like Pershore.

Coun Gretton, the cabinet member in charge of the service, added: "I accept the decision is unpalatable for the parents and I regret that. But nothing I have heard today has shaken my belief that Pershore is not sustainable in the long term."

And his view was ultimately supported by the committee, with members satisfied they had received sufficient assurances that standards of care would be maintained.

Coun Tucker's was the only dissenting voice. "We are throwing away a very valuable asset," she said. "I'm really, really distressed."