Volunteers need help, not hindrance, to run facilities

Craig Simmons, Oxford City Council deputy Green group leader

Craig Simmons, Oxford City Council deputy Green group leader

First published in News

In June, Oxford City Council officers told East Oxford Community Association to leave the community centre on the corner of Princes Street because of concerns about the way it was being run.

Meanwhile the city council is trying to move all community associations in Oxford on to new short leases, which has been controversial.

With discussions between the two parties ongoing, city councillor for St Mary’s and deputy leader of the Green group Craig Simmons says why he thinks the authority has been too heavy-handed.

Oxford Mail:

  • East Oxford Community Centre

Our view was that Oxford City Council should never have issued the eviction notice because East Oxford Community Association is a group of volunteers and they need support to help them manage the community centre better.

There are individuals involved in the community association who are very dedicated to the centre and they are in the majority.

The council should allow them to continue to occupy the premises but give them dedicated officer support.

Oxford Mail:

  • The users of East Oxford Community Centre, centre, include the Womanity women’s festival

The situation there is like any community centre run by volunteers: it has its ups and downs because it depends on people who volunteer their time and the skills of those involved.

All of Oxford’s community centres, and not just East Oxford, have their problems.

Oxford’s community centres used to have dedicated officer support, but it was withdrawn. The council should have intervened earlier and what happened was that when it did intervene, it just criticised the community association rather than offer them help.

They told them what to do and gave them an action plan that was always destined to fail because the community association didn’t have the resources to deliver.

Oxford Mail:

  • The Cowley Cotton Club dance group uses the centre

What the community association needs is resources and someone to help them.

I am extremely concerned that the city council has had plans for the community centre for some time and that the council is using this to make changes which the community as a whole has resisted.

Development at the back of the community centre has been mooted for some time.

There is no signed lease at the moment and the city council wants to move its community centres on to short leases, but the problem with short leases is that you cannot get funding.

Oxford Mail:

  • Oxford Green Print ethical printing co-operative has also used the centre

That has always been the argument from all of the community associations and the late Bill Baker was very vocal about this as part of the Oxford Federation of Community Associations and as a former Labour councillor.

East Oxford Community Association has a lease at the moment – and, of course, they need a lease – but long leases are much more sensible because community associations need more stability. I don’t think there is any question about that.

It is the terms of the lease that the city council is seeking to change that I object to and the main one is the length of time it lasts for.

My worry is that if the council takes over the running of East Oxford Community Centre then it will be turned into a hall for rent rather than a community centre, which is what I believe has happened to other centres in Oxford.

Oxford Mail:

  • Fusion Arts have also used the East Oxford Community Centre

The replacement for the Cowley Community Centre is just going to be a room for rent, and that is a direction I very much resist.

We want community associations to be at the heart of their community and not just rooms which the city council rents out.

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone's contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.

Send your Letter to the Editor

11:20am Monday 28th July 2014

What do you think? We welcome letters from our readers on a wide variety of subjects and you can send us a letter through the blue headline above.


Our top stories

One in three children in parts of Oxford are living in poverty, says charity

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Thursday 30th October 2014

ONE in three children are living in poverty in areas of the city, a charity has found.

UPDATE: Road reopens after car overturns in Heyford Road, Middleton Stoney

Oxford Mail: Ambulance stock image

10:12am Thursday 30th October 2014

A woman has been taken to hospital following a crash in Middleton Stoney.

LONDON WELSH: Piri Weepu plays down injury concerns

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Thursday 30th October 2014

LONDON Welsh scrum half Piri Weepu yesterday played down concerns about the ankle injury that has left his right foot in a protective boot.

More than 40 Oxford buildings to get free wi-fi

Oxford Mail: Oxford Ice Rink

9:30am Thursday 30th October 2014

ART galleries, civic buildings and even Oxford Ice Rink will soon have free wi-fi thanks to government investment.

London Welsh scrum on down for a bit of action at Oxford's Radcliffe Camera

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Thursday 30th October 2014

LONDON Welsh rugby players are well known for their big hits on opponents in the Aviva Premiership, but yesterday they were the big hits as they took the Big City Scrum to the streets of Oxford.

Bishop of Oxford's farewell eucharist

Oxford Mail:

9:10am Thursday 30th October 2014

A farewell eucharist will be held today at Christ Church cathedral for the retiring Bishop of Oxford.

Comments

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree