In September last year the County Council began a consultation process aimed at determining the best way to manage the funding of their community buildings in the future. The consultation ran until December and the resulting report was published and agreed by the Council’s cabinet in February.
The Community Buildings Strategy is to target investment totalling £2.15 million to selected community buildings on condition that they undertake a process of asset transfer. Community buildings not selected for investment would also have the option of going down the asset transfer route but without any resulting investment. Community buildings that choose not to undertake asset transfer would face closure.
Who decides which buildings get the money?
The 120 community buildings in the county were prioritised using a number of measures – the deprivation level of the surrounding area, the settlement size, the state of repair and the proximity to other community buildings. The report recommended that the top 36 buildings receive a share of the investment, the next 41 are in a ‘Do not invest from the current programme unless resources become available’ category, 27 buildings face immediate closure or asset transfer and the remaining 16 are already run without investment from the Council.
What does this mean for Pittington?
The report placed Pittington Village Hall 44th on the list and Southbrook house 70th on the list, both in the ‘Do not invest’ category. This means both buildings are unlikely to receive any further funding from the Council towards capital expenditures such as repairs or accessibility developments. In addition both buildings now face the prospect of closure unless they are prepared to go down the route of asset transfer.
What is Asset Transfer?
Asset transfer is the process through which control is passed from the County Council to the community itself. This will be done through the granting of a long term Full Repairing and Insuring Lease. This means that while the County Council will retain ownership of the building, the organisation formed by the community will be responsible for all development, maintenance and running costs.
In order for the asset transfer to take place the community organisation planning to take control of the building must prepare a full business plan for the future use of the building that provides assurances for its long-term survival.
What happens next?
Pittington Village Hall Association, the registered charity that currently manages the Village Hall, has decided that they will be going down the asset transfer route. We have set up a working group to look at how the Hall could be used in the future and to develop the required business plan.
The first asset transfer applications will be made in May this year but community buildings will have until March 2014 to complete the asset transfer process. Any buildings failing to complete the process at this time will be closed.
Can the Village Hall survive after asset transfer?
Last year the Village Hall made a small loss even after receiving £2000 in grant aid from the Council. Following asset transfer the additional costs such as insurance, repairs and maintenance will mean that we need to find new sources of income to ensure the future of the Hall.
The income has been helped recently by new users such as Zumba and Bokwa and events like the mobile cinema screenings which are set to resume shortly, but there is a limit to the number of new users we can accommodate so more innovative plans are needed.
The County Council will provide some support during the changeover period to help us identify new sources of funding in the form of grants and loans and it is hoped that with the community in control of the Hall there will be more scope for development to help the Hall improve and extend the services it offers to the community.
How can I help?
We are keen to hear from anyone who has a view as to how the Hall can best serve the community. This could include new activities you’d like to take part in or completely new ways of using the Hall’s rooms or the outside space, at this stage all ideas are useful. You can let us know your ideas through the contact us page on this website, through our Facebook page, by post to the Village Hall, or by coming to a meeting of the Village Hall Association or Pittington Voluntary Community.