Community centre plans backed

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COUNCILLORS have backed plans that could see voluntary groups take control of five community centres.

Hartlepool Borough Council is considering releasing the community venues on a long-term lease to organisations like charities, parish councils and voluntary groups, as part of budget savings.

The proposal was put before the council’s cabinet committee after it was agreed to give a nine-month reprieve from closure for Throston Community Centre, West View Community Centre and Library, and Jutland Road Community Centre to look into the potential of passing them into community ownership.

After a lengthy debate, senior councillors agreed to launch a formal process to advertise for expressions of interest for community organisations to take over the venues.

Also included in the plans are Burbank Community Centre and Owton Manor Community Centre and Library, although councillors have stressed that there are no definite plans to either lease or sell those two buildings at this stage.

They simply want to gauge the level of interest.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond stressed that groups should be aware that there will be no funding to help run Throston, West View and Jutland Road community centres if they are transferred.

Mayor Drummond said: “The reason that we are looking at closing the three centres is because we can’t afford to run them.

“It would be great if they can run them for us, but we can’t provide any funding for that.”

Senior councillors will sit down later this summer with officers to discuss the bids, which must show how the groups can run the buildings for the good of the community.

If the bids are approved then the transfers could be competed by January 1 next year.

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash, who said he was “always in favour of supporting community organisations” asked for clarity on whether the buildings would be sold or transferred on a long lease.

It was confirmed that it would be on a lease basis, the length of which would be decided later down the line.

Meanwhile, Labour councillor Robbie Payne raised concerns about the plans and said there was still more “questions than answers”.

The council has a history in dealing with asset transfers.

In liaison with community group Hartlepool People, the council made a successful bid to the Government’s Community Asset Transfer Fund, leading to the transfer of the Peoples Centre and £1m of refurbishment works.

A transfer has also been completed with Hartlepool Carers and offers remain outstanding with Manor Residents’ Association and Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency for the transfer of the properties they occupy.