THE Skipton branch of Age UK looks set to be one of just two to remain open in the district as the charity plans for office closures and redundancies due to the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington says it is faced with the “enormously difficult decision” of having to begin consultations over reducing costs in order to protect core services and secure the long-term future of the organisation.

The proposal is for four offices to close permanently in Richmond, Northallerton, Harrogate and Darlington, with seven roles – a quarter of the workforce – placed at risk of redundancy. All offices, including Skipton, remain closed because of the pandemic.

It is proposed that the Skipton office, in the Swadford Centre, Swadford Street, will stay open and along with Bradbury House, in Darlington, will be developed.

Meanwhile, its chief executive, Helen Hunter, has stressed that crucial frontline services – part of the charity’s coronavirus response – will be unaffected. These include information and advice; the delivery of hot meals to vulnerable elderly people; befriending services to combat loneliness; and shopping and prescription collection and delivery.

Support groups and activities will also be reopened when safe to do so, with alternative venues being sought for those held in closed centres.

Mrs Hunter said: “This proposal is a highly regrettable consequence of the huge financial impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the entire charity sector, but our absolute priority is to maintain all our frontline services in these difficult times.”

In April, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, announced £750m of extra funding for frontline charities across the UK, following widespread calls to help the sector survive the global crisis.

Mrs Hunter added: “We have been able to draw on some financial support from the National Emergencies Trust, via the local authorities and community foundations, and we are very grateful for the additional funding announced by the Chancellor.

“However, the reality is that, with so many charities needing help, the funding has been slow coming through at a time when revenue generation through our fundraising activities has stopped.

“Therefore, the only option we have is to look at reducing costs, and tough decisions are having to be faced to ensure we protect frontline services and give the charity a sustainable future.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, doing their utmost to support older people in these unprecedented times, and no decisions will be finalised until the staff affected have been fully consulted on the proposal.”