Agenda item

Review of Neighbourhood Centres- Phase Two

-           Strategic Director of Neighbourhoods and Adult Services to report.


Further to Minute No. 77 of the meeting of the Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods held on 7th April 2014, Councillor McNeely, Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods, introduced a report by the Strategic Director of Neighbourhoods and Adult Services, which detailed recommendations for fourteen of the twenty-three neighbourhood centres and emerging proposals for the laundry facilities. Recommendations for the remaining nine neighbourhood centres, laundry and guest bedroom facilities would be submitted to a future meeting.


Tenants residing on a scheme with access to a centre have to pay a mandatory communal facility charge (CFC) which was currently set at £4.77 per property per week as agreed within their tenancy agreement for use and access to the neighbourhood centre. This charge provided income for the centres to support the associated running costs. 


A review of the centres was initiated following customer requests in relation to the potential to opt out of the communal facility charge and declining usage of the facilities by residents.


In addition, increasing management costs due to rises in utility costs and repairs and maintenance requirements, had resulted in the centres operating at an overall financial deficit and consequently creating budgetary pressures.


A thorough consultation exercise for each of the neighbourhood centres, including communal lounge areas, guest bedrooms and laundry facilities had been undertaken, to determine proposals relating to future use.


Based on a range of parameters including usage, financial information, Ward Member feedback and consultation responses from tenants the recommendations for the remaining twenty-three neighbourhood centres were as follows:-


·                Retain four neighbourhood centres which were considered to be sustainable.


·                Ten neighbourhood centres  (including communal lounge, laundry and guest bedroom facilities) were considered to be unsustainable, of these it was proposed to:-


Ø   Convert eight centres to residential units; the centres would be converted and re-let as Council homes to support housing need and demand.

Ø   Asset transfer two centres; expressions of interest have been received which comply with the relevant policy. This would allow management of the centres and the associated costs to be transferred to the identified group (including removal of the communal facility charge) as well as retaining a community facility. The proposed asset transfer of the two units identified would transfer full management and maintenance responsibilities to the lessee. However, if asset transfer did not go ahead then the units would be converted to residential units.


·                Five neighbourhood centres have been identified as unsustainable, however, current usage of the laundry facility was above the proposed minimum threshold. Recommendations would, therefore, be deferred until the laundry consultation had been concluded.


·                Four neighbourhood centres were being deferred pending further analysis


It was recommended that further consultation in relation to the proposed laundry charge be undertaken to enable recommendations to be concluded. 


A programme of investment would be undertaken to improve the service offer within retained centres including both decoration and new furniture as required to encourage further use of neighbourhood centres. This would support the Council’s wider emerging older peoples housing strategy objectives in relation to maintaining independence, preventing social isolation and promoting health and wellbeing and would provide suitable facilities for what was hoped would be a wider range of health and social activities.


Resolved:-  (1)  That the decommissioning and alternative use of ten neighbourhood centres (including communal lounge, laundry and guest bedroom facilities) as identified in Appendix 1 be approved.


(2)  That the retention of a further four neighbourhood centres as identified in Appendix 1 be approved.


(3)  That the rationale for the laundry facilities as detailed in 7.3 be supported and the recommended consultation in relation to the proposed increased charge be approved.


(4)  That the proposed next steps identified in 7.6 be noted.

Supporting documents: