How Much is a Community Worth?

Next week the Executive Board or “Cabinet” are due to decide on the future cost of leasing for the Grange Community Centre on Wednesday. It is proposed to increase the charge from the current rate of ?50 per year to ?1,000 this year increasing year on year to ?4,000 over the next four years.

The report confirms that the Grange has “developed as a well used local community facility” that has “invested over ?190,000 in improvements and repairs” over the last 20 years. The report goes on to say the Trustees “have indicated that any significant increase in rent without a compensating grant, would make continued community use no longer viable.”

The Council seems to be happy to ignore the protestations of the Trustees of a successful and locally managed organisation which serves the needs of its local community. For the sake of a few thousand pounds it appears that the council is willing to risk the future of one of the most well maintained and locally supported facilities in Rayleigh and one which is managed by local people for local people.

Will they tell us how this fits in the vision of a Rochford that is “the place of choice to live” when it appears to care so little for the residents and their much cared for facilities?

You can find the agenda for the next cabinet meeting here.

  • I saw this story on the Echo website and thought it must be some kind of mistake. The cynic in me is tempted to think that maybe it has been identified as being somewhere to build houses but let’s hope for some common sense and decency; this is exactly the type of community facility needed in our town.

    I have nothing against building houses, or flats for that matter, but we also need community facilities.

  • Sorry to say its no mistake. What’s more the decision will be made by the Executive (just 9 councillors and none of them representing the ward in question) on the advice of the officers of the council.
    As far a I am aware no one, (trustees, residents or local councillors) will be able to speak at the meeting. My opinions as ward councillor were not canvassed by officials although I chose to put my views in writing to the officer responsible for the report. These have not been represented in the report to the Executive.
    Is this an example of Cabinet democracy in action?

  • Alison, you are not being too cynical at all. If this centre fails because the rent is too high, the council has an opprortunity to raise lots of cash by selling it for housing (unless there’s a covenant on the land or other restriction).

  • Hi Chris,

    Who are the councillors that sit on the Executive, the more I read lately the more I get concerned. More power to this site for bringing this to light, I’m pretty sure it would go unnoticed otherwise.

  • To quote the council website:

    The Executive Board comprises nine Councillors. The Leader of the Council (Cllr T G Cutmore) is Chairman of the Board and the Deputy Leader (Cllr K H Hudson) Vice-Chairman. Within the Executive Board, individual Members have responsibility for:-
    Overall Strategy and Partnership (Cllr T G Cutmore)
    Resources and Service Development (Cllr P F A Webster)
    The Environment (Cllr M G B Starke)
    The Community (Cllr K J Gordon)
    Planning Policy and Transportation (Cllr K H Hudson)
    Leisure, Tourism and Heritage (Cllr Mrs M J Webster)
    The Chairmen of the Council’s three Area Committees (Cllrs J M Pullen, C G Seagers and D G Stansby) are appointed to the Executive Board.

    The Board makes decisions on matters of policy and management across the range of services delivered by the Council (subject to some decisions which are reserved to the Full Council). The more significant decisions (known as “key decisions”) are published in a Forward Plan (see link below.) Decisions made by the Board are published and are subject to “call-in” by the Council’s Review Committee or referral to Full Council for a five day period prior to being enacted.

  • The District Council are now going too far. The Grange Community Centre serves residents who without this facility would see little of Rayleigh life. Have we come to such an imposition that the Tories have no compassion with people who depend on a facility such as the Grange Community Centre to feel part of the community. Any councillors who have agreed this way forward should feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Many of the councillors who will be expected to agree with this outcome will not feel comfortable with the decision that has been forced upon them. But will not feel able to speak against it because of the position that will be forced upon them. The Grange Community Centre does not pay a high yearly rate, that is true, but if you compare that with the good it does, then it’s use should be free.

    Let us be clear here. The District Council see this as a cash cow. How much money can they get for this land from a developer. The District council are playing an immoral game. The residents have forced the Council to back down on development in Rayleigh and this is the District Council’s payback. Well it does not wash with me and it will not wash with many Rayleigh residents. We have as a unit forced the council to back down once, we can do it again.

    The Tories will know that this move will be very unpopular but maybe they have already completed a deal to have a new development on this land. Maybe with resident support we can raise the initial money required to keep this facility going? Now that would be interesting!

  • Alison, Steve can we meet and discuss this, maybe with some decent media coverage we can force the council to re-think? Are you up for the fight. The West Area Committee is this week maybe we can put a few questions to the committee?

  • I think this is a case where the Lib Dem group – and onlineFOCUS – is hopefully go to act like the kind of ‘rumble strip’ you have on some roads – once the Tories start to head off course, we make a nasty noise to wake them up and they avoid a crash!

  • I have been speaking to a friend who lives in Chelmsford and apparently Rochford DC will not be the first council in our part of Essex to sell a previously well used Community Centre and the land it’s built on to developers for a large handfull of cash (if in fact that is what they are planning.) I will make some more enquiries surrounding the Chelmsford sell off and see how that came about.

    I also learned how Asda actually works behind the scenes. I spoke to someone from South Woodham and learnt that when they built their superstore there they basically had the last say over many council decisions for many years. Now that is a big statement but this was locally, commonly known. When the SWF Asda was built the developers had about as much respect for their local residents as the Rawreth residents are getting at the moment. That speaks volumes for ASDA. Maybe we should be warning all local residents where ASDA stores are being built, to be on their guard and take whatever ASDA are telling them with a pinch of salt.