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Council Scrutiny Panel recommends keeping open the Council’s community rooms at Wimborne Crescent and Monkwood Road

Following widespread opposition and public protest from the community in the Dunston and Moor Areas, Chesterfield Borough Council’s decision to close seven of the Borough’s twelve community rooms was referred to the Council’s Scrutiny Panel for review.  

At its meeting last week the Scrutiny Board recommended that two of the community rooms originally earmarked for closure, those at Monkwood Road and Wimborne Crescent, should be kept open and the use of these rooms by tenants and the community monitored over the next twelve months. 

Graham King, spokesperson for Dunston and Moor Residents and Tenants Association said, “ as the public demonstrations we held in front of these two community rooms last month showed, the community is very angry that the Council’s Cabinet decided to include two of the best used community rooms in their closure and conversion programme in the first place. Nobody can seriously believe that the only possible way that the Council can provide additional bungalows is by closing two of the best used community rooms while other community rooms that are little used are to be kept open! It just does not make sense. We therefore welcome the Scrutiny Panel’s recommendation and urge the Cabinet to accept it ”. 

He went on to say, “ Of course, the Council should have identified all the community groups that use all of the community rooms and monitored the level of use of each room carefully in the first place i.e. before the Cabinet made its decision! They should also have identified and consulted all the affected community groups properly before making the decision”.

Members of the Association are, however, worried about reports that there are planned proposals to increase the rental on the community rooms from the current  £5.50 plus VAT per hour (or 50% of this in the case of bona fide community groups) to a minimum charge of £20 for up to three hours of hire! 

Mr King said, “ I sincerely hope that the Cabinet does not entertain this idea. If implemented it would make hiring of the rooms uneconomic for most, if not all, community groups.  There can be few such groups that ever hold meetings that last for three hours anyway! Imposing a rental of this nature would make the cost of hiring the rooms prohibitive and therefore make the results of the monitoring exercise recommended by the Scrutiny Panel a foregone conclusion. We welcome the Scrutiny Panel’s recommendation but if the Council were to introduce a higher scale of charging at the same time it would make a mockery of any monitoring exercise not to mention causing outrage among the community of user groups.” 

Member of Parliament Toby Perkins MP, who spoke at two demonstrations outside the affected Community Rooms against their closure, welcomed the news about the Scrutiny Board’s recommendations by saying:   

“I am pleased that the Scrutiny Board recognised the strength of the argument put forward by the community.” 
 
However proposals aired by Council Housing officers during the Scrutiny Board meeting were viewed less positively by Mr Perkins. He added:  
 

“I hope that there isn’t a plan to pretend to be reviewing the situation, whilst introducing charges that will actually depress demand for the premises rather than increase it. We want a fair review period and a real attempt made by the Council to increase the take up of these community facilities over the twelve month period.” 

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I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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