A lease of life for social hall
FRESHBROOK Community Centre is looking to expand on its success story by taking over management of Roughmoor Social Hall.
The community centre in West Swindon was forced to close on September 17, 2009 after the Charity Commission withdrew its charitable status, but within seven months it was back on its feet and thriving thanks to the efforts of its new volunteer management committee.
The centre was reinstated as a charity, but with a liability of £2,500 in debts.
Since then the management committee has revitalised the centre, and hopes to work its magic on the Peatmoor centre after having grants approved to take on the work.
Stephanie Bird, manager of Freshbrook Community Centre, said: “We are going to run it in the same way as we have run Freshbrook, and will hopefully be able to open it up to make it easier for people to hire it out and make it more affordable.
“Everything will be run out of Freshbrook. We have got a caretaker to look after both properties, but all the admin will come through here.
“We have had a meeting with some Roughmoor users who were concerned about the takeover, but I think we managed to reassure them. To start with we are hoping to keep the services that are there at the moment, and it should be easier for someone to come forward and hire it because the rates will be more affordable.
“The main thing we are looking to improve is that the centre is contactable. When people do try to book it they can’t get hold of anybody, and at the moment it is quite expensive to hire.
“But people should not notice the change of management, because in terms of its use not a lot is going to change.”
Swindon Council asked the committee to take on the lease of Roughmoor a year ago, but the members wanted to make sure it was viable to run two centres at the same time before agreeing.
“We wanted to make sure Freshbrook was secure before we took on any added responsibility,” Ms Bird said.
“We don’t want to mix the finances, so money coming into Roughmoor will stay there, and the same goes for Freshbrook. We want each centre to be sustainable, and they will be financially separate.”
The agreement is subject to a lease being signed by the committee in Freshbrook, but funds have been finalised for the deal.
“We are aiming to take over the hall by the end of October,” Ms Bird said.
Paula Harrison, locality administrator for West Swindon, said: “We have been having conversations with the community centre about them extending their current remit to include Roughmoor Social Hall.
“They have requested two grant applications to help them take up the costs, which include a grassroots grant of £1,000 and an admin grant of £500.
“If they do decide to take up the lease, the funding will be there to support them. We are really keen for them to go ahead with it, and the conversations we have had are very positive.”
Coun Michael Dickinson, (Con, Lydiard and Freshbrook), said: “The community centre in Freshbrook was run by people who ran it down, and the new group of volunteers have done an outstanding job. It has been totally transformed, and that has all been done with money raised by the community group.”
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