Scoring system aimed at improving community centres

Oxford Mail: Bill Baker, chairman of the Oxford Federation of Community Associations Bill Baker, chairman of the Oxford Federation of Community Associations

A SCORING system to rank Oxford’s community centres is set to be introduced to drive up standards.

Oxford City Council is planning to introduce three standards of bronze, silver and gold.

But the chairman of a group which represents the city’s community centres last night said he had been left in the dark about proposed changes.

Bill Baker, who is chairman of the Oxford Federation of Community Associations, said: “The council has managed to keep us very much in the dark where this is concerned.

“I thought we were supposed to work together and I am greatly disappointed.

“In principle I think these standards are a good idea. I am chairman of the Donnington Community Association and we have been audited by the city council who said we run our community centre very well.

“But I cannot answer for the other centres.”

Community centres achieving bronze – the compulsory minimum standard – would be meeting their legal responsibilities and safety considerations, while those achieving a gold standard would be reaching out to local communities and conducting local consultations.

City council officers would work with the community associations and go through a checklist of criteria they would need to meet every year.If the bronze standard was not met then the city council would either take over the running of the community centre or help the association fix whatever problems it had.

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But city councillor Steven Curran, board member for young people, education and community development, described this as being “extremely unlikely”.

This week the proposals were presented to the city council’s communities and partnership scrutiny committee at the Town Hall.

City councillor Jim Campbell, a member of the committee, said: “It’s a sensible idea because with some community centres they are really not pleasant buildings to go into.”

Angela Cristofoli, the city council’s communities and neighbourhoods manager, said her team was working with the council’s corporate assets team on the state of the community centres themselves.

The city council owns 19 community centres, 17 of which are operated by community associations. The others are directly managed by the council.

Earlier this year it emerged the city council was hoping to bring in standardised three-year leases on all its properties.

Mr Baker raised concerns about what this would mean for associations hoping to get external funding, but the council said there would be opportunities for longer leases in the future after the process of standardisation had been carried out.

Mr Curran said the council was still in the process of negotiating leases with the various community associations.

He said: “There is a meeting between council officers and the federation this week and we’ve probably met with them three or four times since May.

“What we want to achieve is first-class centres for our communities. Good community centres are already doing most of the work that we would want them to do.”

Comments (5)

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12:59am Tue 4 Dec 12

Myron Blatz says...

Sounds like Labour-led Oxford City Council coming the 'heavy hand' again. One of my neighbours who was involved in several of Oxford's community centres over many years said that most of the community centres which had a poor reputation in the past had been those controlled by City Council itself, rather than by voluntary, independent comunity associations. Nor, having been to several community centres - including once to Rose Hill a few years back - was I impressed by the lack of repair and maintaining of the centres by City Council, on par with its equally poor record with public toilets and other facilities where for donkey's years, the operative phrase has been 'patch and mend' by City Council. Now, City Councillors seem to want to shove all the liability and responsibility for community centres on the unpaid voluntary associations, without whom none of these important facilities in our communities will survive, let alone be self-financing. As for the idea that City Council emloyees would be going around telling community associations what to do? Maybe they would be better-employed in policing the City Council management which costs council tax payers so much to achieve so little, not to mention the City Councillors who seem to spend most of their time representing their political parties, rather than the people of Oxford! Tye problem seems to be that Labour Group has no idea about what it is doing - and LibDems on Oxford City Council, even less?
Sounds like Labour-led Oxford City Council coming the 'heavy hand' again. One of my neighbours who was involved in several of Oxford's community centres over many years said that most of the community centres which had a poor reputation in the past had been those controlled by City Council itself, rather than by voluntary, independent comunity associations. Nor, having been to several community centres - including once to Rose Hill a few years back - was I impressed by the lack of repair and maintaining of the centres by City Council, on par with its equally poor record with public toilets and other facilities where for donkey's years, the operative phrase has been 'patch and mend' by City Council. Now, City Councillors seem to want to shove all the liability and responsibility for community centres on the unpaid voluntary associations, without whom none of these important facilities in our communities will survive, let alone be self-financing. As for the idea that City Council emloyees would be going around telling community associations what to do? Maybe they would be better-employed in policing the City Council management which costs council tax payers so much to achieve so little, not to mention the City Councillors who seem to spend most of their time representing their political parties, rather than the people of Oxford! Tye problem seems to be that Labour Group has no idea about what it is doing - and LibDems on Oxford City Council, even less? Myron Blatz
  • Score: 0

7:25am Tue 4 Dec 12

bart-on simpson says...

Gold medals to Barton, W. Oxford, and N. Oxford.

How can volunteers, who are financially liable, take over their running?
Gold medals to Barton, W. Oxford, and N. Oxford. How can volunteers, who are financially liable, take over their running? bart-on simpson
  • Score: 0

8:41am Tue 4 Dec 12

Grandpontman says...

It would have been nice if the council had informed the hard working volunteers of their plans prior to releasing it to the press.I think this is a prime example of their lack of understanding of the hard work that goes into running these community centres and the fact that they are generally run for the local communities by volunteers,who are not council employees who can be ordered about by people who have little or no empathy with the local areas they are dealing with.I think all these volunteers should resign,hand resposibility to the council and see how well they do!On second thoughts,not a great idea as the council would just use it as an excuse to sell these community properties !COUNCILLORS REMEMBER,THESE ARE VOLUNTEERS NOT YOUR EMPLOYEES!
It would have been nice if the council had informed the hard working volunteers of their plans prior to releasing it to the press.I think this is a prime example of their lack of understanding of the hard work that goes into running these community centres and the fact that they are generally run for the local communities by volunteers,who are not council employees who can be ordered about by people who have little or no empathy with the local areas they are dealing with.I think all these volunteers should resign,hand resposibility to the council and see how well they do!On second thoughts,not a great idea as the council would just use it as an excuse to sell these community properties !COUNCILLORS REMEMBER,THESE ARE VOLUNTEERS NOT YOUR EMPLOYEES! Grandpontman
  • Score: 0

12:41pm Tue 4 Dec 12

Myron Blatz says...

Well, Bart-On, it's apparently all about transferring 'liability' and 'responsibility' from the City Council, whilst still trying to control the running of the community centres through city council employees and local Councillors. Same neighbour said that City Council apparently wants the community associations - which already run and manage the centres as registered charities - to provide five-year business plans, but only with three-years leases - which means that most won;t be able to get non-City Council grants, because these usually need 10-15-year leases as a minimum. I'm also informed (though sounds very, very complicated!) that under constitutions agreed with the Charity Commissioners (?) that community associations must be run independently of political influence (which won't please Labour!) and should not be under the direct control of either City Council or its employees - which seems to me how City Council and the Town Hall should probably be run - though very much doubt if City Councillors or senior City Council management employees would rate even a 'bronze star' for decisions like this one about community centres!
Well, Bart-On, it's apparently all about transferring 'liability' and 'responsibility' from the City Council, whilst still trying to control the running of the community centres through city council employees and local Councillors. Same neighbour said that City Council apparently wants the community associations - which already run and manage the centres as registered charities - to provide five-year business plans, but only with three-years leases - which means that most won;t be able to get non-City Council grants, because these usually need 10-15-year leases as a minimum. I'm also informed (though sounds very, very complicated!) that under constitutions agreed with the Charity Commissioners (?) that community associations must be run independently of political influence (which won't please Labour!) and should not be under the direct control of either City Council or its employees - which seems to me how City Council and the Town Hall should probably be run - though very much doubt if City Councillors or senior City Council management employees would rate even a 'bronze star' for decisions like this one about community centres! Myron Blatz
  • Score: 0

5:11pm Tue 4 Dec 12

Pavinder Msvarensy says...

Community centres achieving a gold standard would be reaching out to local communities and conducting local consultations.

So judging by that criteria, what medal does The City Council get, a plastic one?
Community centres achieving a gold standard would be reaching out to local communities and conducting local consultations. So judging by that criteria, what medal does The City Council get, a plastic one? Pavinder Msvarensy
  • Score: 0

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