Boost for community centre

Blackhall Community Centre manager Alison Paterson outside the Hesleden Road facility
Blackhall Community Centre manager Alison Paterson outside the Hesleden Road facility

BOSSES at a community venue say the centre will reap the benefits of “invaluable” business advice gained during a leadership course – with more staff taken on as a result.

Blackhall Community Centre manager Alison Paterson recently took part in a management and leadership course and received coaching from Northumberland Business Service Ltd (NSBL).

Mrs Paterson enlisted the help of NSBL with the aim of “running a tighter ship” at the former miners’ hall.

She received coaching from business consultants to help her develop her management capabilities after accessing £1,000 grant support.

Mrs Paterson, who has managed the Hesleden Road-based centre for six years, said: “The course enhanced my existing skills and it picked up on my weaknesses.

“It made me stronger in those areas and was definitely worthwhile.

“It will definitely benefit the centre – we will have a more professional approach.”

Mrs Paterson, who featured in the Hartlepool Mail last year when the centre’s entrance underwent a £24,000 revamp, worked with Lynn Howard Consultancy and Training Services, which also helped her boost the skills of her team as well as trustees and volunteers.

The consultants found that Mrs Paterson needed to set “key performance indicators” and to be able to manage meetings more effectively, develop the centre into a more professional organisation and gain more corporate and private business income.

The action plan also saw two extra bar staff taken on to cope with an increase in functions, an online diary set up and uniforms introduced to make staff look more professional.

The centre, which is a social enterprise that provides function and meeting rooms for hire, runs a café and a gym and involves the community in a variety of events, has up to 800 users each week.

The venue now plans to build on its achievements and go from strength to strength.

The Mail reported at the end of 2010 that the centre was having to find alternative sources of funding during the economic crisis.

But Mrs Paterson had said funding fears had been offset by staff foregoing three of their weekly hours, the equivalent of one wage, and offering more functions.