A QUESTION mark hangs over the future of a centre which helps to improve the lives of people in some of Ellesmere Port's poorest areas.
As its initial £300,000 of funding comes to an end, the borough council is looking at several options for the town's Links Healthy Living Centre.
These include closure, the axing of its drop-in facility or funding it in conjunction with the local Primary Care Trust (PCT).
No decision has yet been made, although the Links management board prefers the last option, which council officers are exploring with the PCT.
The centre, next to the town's Civic Hall, helps residents with drug, alcohol and domestic abuse, diet, health and social welfare issues.
To date, it has received more than 32,000 visits from the public. Half of these were from people in its target wards of Central, Wolverham, Stanlow, Westminster, Grange, Pooltown and Rivacre.
Borough councillor Jonathan Starkey (Con, Ledsham) said: 'I hope we can find a way forward to keep the centre open. It's important for the health of this area.
'This would hit the poorest people in this town who need access to these services the most.'
Links was opened by the council and the PCT in September 2002 after receiving a five-year grant of £292,530 from the Big Lottery Fund. This cash, the centre's main source of funding, runs out in March 2007.
Management says in a council report that staying as it is 'isn't a real option', and it would be expensive and impractical to become an independent body. Closure is another possibility.
Its 'preferred option' is the council and PCT contributing about £75,000 a year to run the centre.
The report said: 'It would be possible to reduce this net cost to around £60,000 by ceasing to operate as a drop-in centre and mainstreaming day-to-day operations into the work of the Civic Hall. This would be while developing healthy living events and activities through the centre co-ordinator.'
Cllr Starkey said: 'This is indicative of the state of funding of health services across this area.'