May 20 2013 Latest news:
Monday, March 4, 2013
Norwich’s community centres are hidden gems which need more help to survive and thrive in tough economic times, a specially commissioned report has revealed.
And a group of city councillors believe there could be benefits in the centres banding together so they can get hold of vital funding streams to keep them running.
The councillors also say more ought to be done to let people know what is going on at their local community centre and to attract more volunteers to run them. A cross-party group of city councillors spent a year studying the city’s community centres, including the 16 in the city which are owned by Norwich City Council.
The group came about due to fears that centres could be at risk in the current climate, but actually found they were surviving, some were thriving, and there are lots of ideas about how to make them better.
Their report concluded that: “The task and finish group found a mixed and perhaps underused range of assets, but equally groups of hard working, enthusiastic, but at times overwhelmed volunteers who were aiming to do their best for the communities.”
Lucy Galvin, Green Party councillor for Wensum ward, was a member of the group, along with fellow Green Graeme Gee and Labour councillors Jo Storie and Mike Sands. She said: “Norwich’s community centres are hidden gems, delivering loads of incredibly good value for money activities right on people’s doorsteps.
“The report recommends that the council should help them to work together to access substantial funding, to protect them in today’s difficult climate.
“It’s more important than ever that we have local centres. They provide much-needed social, health and financial support.
“And new research shows that community organisations can be the difference between life and death in freak weather events such as heatwaves and floods.
“The city council stands to reap huge rewards if it gets behind its centres and helps them work together.”
Among the group’s recommendations to the city council is that the authority could help develop a federation of community centres which might be able to bid for bigger external grants than individual centres can bid for.
Other recommendations include that, while acknowledging the pressure on the council’s budgets, that it should try to invest in the centres where possible and should do more to promote them, by putting up details of centres and activities on offer on-line.
As part of their research, Green councillors on the group asked more than 100 people in Wensum, Town Close, Nelson, Thorpe Hamlet, Mancroft and Sewell for their views on their community centres. Seventy per cent of people said they had a local community centre and 66pc of people had been into them.
But 62pc had not been in over the past year and 71pc said they did not receive any information about events at their local centre.
Only about 40pc of people were aware that local people ran the centres but more than 80pc of people felt the council should continue to support them.
People involved with the running of community centres in the city are invited to a special meeting at City Hall at 6pm tomorrow where the findings of the group will be reported.
The city council’s scrutiny committee will then meet on Thursday to consider the group’s report and will make recommendations to the city council’s cabinet.
Brenda Arthur, leader of the city council, said: “As someone who spent several years as a community worker for Norwich City Council, I absoultely understand the benefit of having local resources like this which help community cohesion and help people work across generations.
“Social isolation is one of the worst things people can face, so anything which can prevent that and provide a focus for people to come together is something I welcome.
“However, it is very difficult to commit resoruces and maybe we do need to look at other ways we can help these centres.
“As a local authority we are always looking at grants from other organisations which we can spend well, so that could be an option. “We are trying very hard in difficult times to look at ways we can help and we do recognise the huge contribution the volunteers who run these centres make.”
• What do you think of the city’s community centres? Write to Norwich Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email email@example.com