Sell-off for community centres is planned

FIVE community centres could be passed into voluntary sector ownership by the end of the year if moves to sell them off are approved.

Hartlepool Borough Council is considering selling the community venues at market value or at a discount to pocket cash as part of budget savings.

The plans could see council bosses sell centres to organisations like charities, parish councils, and voluntary groups if they can prove they can run them for the good of the community.

The proposal has been put before councillors 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.

The council’s cabinet committee is also being asked to include Burbank Community Centre and Owton Manor Community Centre and Library into the proposals.

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.

A report, due to be considered by the mayor and his cabinet, states: “Since the budget setting process and the outcome regarding the opportunity to consider asset transfer, it is encouraging to note that a small number of Hartlepool-based voluntary sector organisations have made known their preliminary interest.

“This is encouraging as it helps to demonstrate, prior to an advertised opportunity to all local providers, that interest exists in this proposal.”

The cabinet is being asked to agree to advertise for expressions of interest for community organisations to take over the venues and if they are approved for transfers to be competed by January 1, 2012.

The meeting will be held at Hartlepool Civic Centre on Monday, May 9, at 9.15am.