Authority asked to help Hub with fundamental expenses

Peter Stonell-Chair of Trustees at Pegswood Community Hub which is possibly threatened with closure.'REF 2401148882
Peter Stonell-Chair of Trustees at Pegswood Community Hub which is possibly threatened with closure.'REF 2401148882

PEGSWOOD councillors are being urged to think again about its funding decision for a community venue.

In December, the parish council discussed a grant application for £5,000 by Pegswood Community Hub, which runs courses, events and sessions for adults and children. The building is also booked by some of the village’s groups and organisations.

Although members spoke of its importance to Pegswood, some said that it should do more activities for certain age groups, the example given was 10 to 17-year-olds.

It was agreed that half of the 2014/15 grant should be awarded now and the trustees should produce an outcome report by October detailing how these funds have been spent and how they would allocate the other £2,500.

But at a recent meeting, Pegswood Community Hub Chairman Peter Stonell asked the authority to revisit this decision before the start of the next financial year, saying the trustees would be willing to consider any conditions attached by councillors if they are clear about what they are demanding.

He explained that Northumberland County Council had initially covered half of the manager’s salary when the charity moved to the Longhirst Road premises, but this was withdrawn three years ago. Other sources of funding helped to keep this post going but from April, the building may have to be run entirely by volunteers.

The annual running costs are about £38,00. A total of £8,000 is returned in the form of rates relief from the county council and £16,000 comes from the hub’s own fund-raising efforts, leaving £6,000 to get from grants and/or donations.

The activities are what happen every week of the year, such as keep-fit exercises for the over 50s, after school groups and a CV writing and job search session. The courses are additional as and when funding is gained.

Mr Stonell added: “I’m here to try and open a dialogue with you. I think it would be very useful if you came along to meet with our trustees and users.

“We are a successful organisation offering to folk what they require in a whole range of activities and I have responded to the comments about the 10 to 17 age group in a letter to the Herald.

“You offer a grant, to be provided in April, with a list of suggested new courses and activities, and will we accept this now? I would have to say no until my trustees have had the opportunity to consider what you propose.

“We operate at near to capacity and, whilst we could squeeze in some new activity, we may be faced with closing some things down or returning other grant monies to meet your requirements.”

Another of the issues raised during the December meeting was that the councillors did not want the grant money to go towards salaries or running costs, so all of it can be spent on activities and courses.

At this month’s meeting, Mr Stonell said: “What do running costs mean?

“Are they incidentals that can be ignored or are they fundamental to the whole operation? For the hub, they are fundamental as without them we cannot operate – we would have no building and no facilities.

“Here the distinction between activities and courses become absolutely crucial because the day-to-day activities are the ones that require the running costs (apart from some over 50s and Children in Need funding that pays for some tutors or workers’ hours).

“Your running costs are to others the computer suite which unemployed people use to write CVs and do the job searches required for them to receive their benefits, the safe place for kids to come to after school (we collect many from the school for parents) and the materials and equipment for these groups, £200 to repair the front door when one of the young people ‘pulled on it a bit hard’ and a telephone for someone to use desperately trying to keep her home and family together among other things.”

Later in the meeting, Pegswood Parish Council Chairman Simon Willcox said it would be beneficial to have better lines of communication in place with the hub and a few other organisations in the village and he will arrange a meeting with Mr Stonell to discuss the issues raised in more detail.