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Oxford’s community centres used to have dedicated officer support, but it was withdrawn.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

UPDATE: Car fire and oil spillage closes A40 near Ducklington and A34 car fire cause delays

Oxford Mail: A40 alert

4:03pm Friday 19th December 2014

A CAR fire and oil spillage closed the A40 westbound causing severe delays.

Motorcyclist 'punches pensioner and hits his car windscreen with helmet' after Cutteslowe crash

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

12:00pm Friday 19th December 2014

A PENSIONER was “severely” injured when he was attacked in his car by a motorcyclist in Cutteslowe, police said.

UPDATE: Body found after motorhome fire at caravan site near Chipping Norton

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

11:30am Friday 19th December 2014

A BODY was found after a fire at a caravan site motorhome.

What brilliant picture is in our Oxford Mail Advent Calendar today?

Oxford Mail:

6:00am Tuesday 9th December 2014

December is Advent Calendar time and we have a special new interactive graphic for you each and every day until Christmas Eve. I've chosen the best 24 pictures of 2014 and I'll be unveiling one a day - so what is behind's today's door?

Oxford United striker John Campbell is keen to make his mark at Hartlepool

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Friday 19th December 2014

John Campbell admits it would be difficult to keep his kit on if he was able to make an impact on debut for Oxford United tomorrow.

‘New £9.2m Leys pool’s too small for contests’

Oxford Mail:

7:00am Friday 19th December 2014

SWIMMING competitions planned for the new £9.2m pool in Blackbird Leys could be at risk due to lack of space, it has been warned.

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