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Scoring system aimed at improving community centres
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.
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.”
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