Sunday, December 04, 2005
Community Centres Chopped?
As part of a range of options being considered by senior officers of the Council to redress the massive overspend of last year's budget, a proposal has been forwarded to reduce the number of community centres maintained by the Borough.
This is almost like taking the "sacred cow" to slaughter, we were, a few years ago, in danger of ending up with a communty centre on almost every street corner! Yet, a quick visit to almost any of them confirms that they are under used and overstaffed.
Amongst those earmarked for closure are Jarrow Civic Hall, an ugly facility at the best of times, and Hill Park Community Centre, both deemed as "unfit" for further use. Also threatened with closure are Wilfred Street Day Care Centre for Older People in Boldon Colliery, and the West Park Play Hut in South Shields.
Let me tell a little story about the West Park Play Hut, which will serve as a useful illustration of the popularity and usefullness of these centres. During the summer months when the schools are closed a number of activities are arranged in places like this for children to fill in their time creatively and purposefully. I took my two children, Junior Curly (aged 8) and Missy Curly (aged 4) to the West Park Play Hut on a glorious summer afternoon, in the hope that they would interact with other children of the same age groups, and pass away a few hours whilst burning off some energy! On arrival we found four members of the play activity scheme but no other children at all, despite the planned events having been well publicised in the Shields Gazette. It should not surprise anyone to hear that after ten minutes my offspring were very bored and the adult members of staff were likewise, having run out of ideas on how to amuse two children!
From conversations that I have had with relatives, friends, and neighbours, it is apparent that a lot of community schemes in these centres are also grossly underused, yet well funded.
At the end of the day, these centres will not be missed, and those few groups that do make use of them will easily find accomodation in one of the other centres that remain, WITHOUT upsetting the schedules of planned activities! It's a wonder that this decision hadn't been taken years ago!!
Born in 1956
Former Borough Councillor
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