Standing up for Haringey’s community-run Community Centres of all kinds, linking up and supporting each other throughout the sector, and celebrating the widespread and vital range of services and activities carried out on behalf of our communities
Contact HCCN c/o email@example.com
Report of launch meeting, Sunday 19th July 2015
Conference Room, 639 Centre, 639 Tottenham High Road, N17 8AA
From Community Centres – Markfield Project (Dee Kushlick-Williams, Sarah Miller); Haringey Irish Centre (Tony Brennan,Teresa Intravarant, John O’Dovan [?], Mary Maguire, Paul Walker); Hornsey Vale Community Centre (Lynne Brackley, Bob Packham); Cypriot Community Centre (Susie Constantinides); Selby Centre / Trust (Sona Mahtani); Lord Morrison Hall (Dau Aldolphus, Philip Udeh); Somerford Grove Adventure Playground (Alison Davy); Asian Centre (Ano Rao, Santhosh Chandra, Raj Gupta); Jackson’s Lane Centre (Melian Mansfield); Lordship Rec Eco-Hub (Dave Morris); Greek Cypriot Community Centre (Yiannoulla Pacheco); Kurdish Advice Centre (Cudi Dabakoglu);
Plus supporting organisations – Haringey Association of Voluntary and Community Organisations (Paul Leslie); Northumberland Park Residents Association (Natasha Ohanaka); The Ubele Initiative (Yvonne Field); CONEL University and College Union / Haringey Trades Union Council / Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (Jenny Sutton); Remi Jones
Apologies: A number received
Background to the meeting
– The Our Tottenham network had mooted the need for a community-run Community Centres network in 2014 as a result of the closure and demolition of the Welbourne Centre, threats to close Chestnuts Community Arts Centre, and an ongoing Review of Community Buildings by the Council. OT held 2 exploratory meetings. The OT network recently applied for and obtained grant funding from Locality ‘First Steps’ to help develop a such a Network.
– The Council’s Community Buildings Review, following 3 years of officer research and meetings with individual Centres, had resulted in a Report to Cabinet recommending short-term leases, higher rents, and general insecurity for the community-run Centres in Council-owned buildings. The Report was incomplete (without the views of the Centres and with no background research/data), inaccurate in parts, vague in many respects, and a real threat to the survival of most Centres.[See links at end of attachment]
– The affected Centres were not notified of the Report. 5 Centres managed to find out, meet up and arrange a rushed deputation to the Cabinet meeting on 14th July (see http://www.haringey.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/176397 [from 30mins to 1hr and 2mins of the webcast]. They called for a suspension of any decision to enable the release of the Review views and data, genuine consultation with the sector and a partnership approach in implementing the Council’s ‘Communities Strategy’ (which advocates community empowerment, independence and partnership with the Council [see Communities Strategy’ 5 Strategic Priorities in attachment, at end]. The lead Cabinet Member Alan Strickland’s response was to say the Council supported most of the points of the presentation by the Centres, but [bizarrely] that the Review Report’s Recommendations should be adopted anyway. No Cabinet Member opposed this so they were passed. Minutes of the Cabinet Meeting are now available, and were circulated to those present.[See at end of attachment]]
– A planned and publicised Community Centres lobby of the Full Council meeting on 20 July was postponed out of respect for the former Council Leader Cllr George Meehan, a strong supporter of the Centres, who passed away at the end of last week.
Reports from the Centres present
Each Centre reported on how long it had been active, its leasing arrangements, its activities and any other key matters. [Notes available for reference]. A number of themes emerged, including..
– Most Centres present have been active serving the community for many years, often decades
– Most Centres run vital local services and activities at little or no cost to the Council. Some of these services are provision which the Council has cut from its own budget, and this is likely to become more and more crucial in the future (for example as a result of the Care Act)
– Hundreds of organisations and thousands of residents are reliant on the facilities, and many of the services are irreplaceable
– Centres are able to use innovation and hard work, and usually do so continuously (!), to access a wide range of funding sources and project initiatives unavailable to the Council – but would be likely to ‘go under’ if costs (eg rent) were raised
– Centres had raised ££ millions to improve their buildings and facilities, many of which had been in a poor state when they took over
– Centres need long and secure leases (to develop business plans, raise grants and justify capital investment etc)
– Most Centres need peppercorn rents or continuation of ‘circular funding’ to be able to survive.
– Most Centres are not-for-profit organisations quite rightly committed to providing free and affordable services and facilities for the community, not commercial businesses out to make a profit from the community. Also any resources secured get ploughed back into the buildings for benefit of the community.
– There are a diverse range of different arrangements/contracts/histories/negotiations etc, with many currently facing legal pressures from the Council or needing renewal of their leases
– Many Centres were promised that the individual interviews by LBH officers during the Review were to be ’the start of a conversation’, but this didn’t materialise, and Centres were shocked their views had not appeared in the Review Report
– There were concerns that officers were using ‘divide and rule’ tactics, saying to some Centres that they would be OK as ‘we like you’ as long as they kept their head down or didn’t exercise their legal rights
– Many of the Centres had had to lobby, campaign, garner public support and fight legal battles in the past, and some had started to mobilise again
As well as Centres present, there were contributions regarding the former Welbourne Centre, the Chestnuts Centre campaign to remain (partly successful), and the need to ensure the currently empty Eric Allin Centre in Northumberland Park is brought back into use. Others present offered support, including HAVCO and the Haringey Trades Union Council.
Further points made…
– We are a unique and very popular sector, and that the Council and anyone interested in the welfare of local people should be falling over backwards to publicly recognise and support our work.
– It was felt that a key underlying reason for the attack on the sector was the Council’s current alliance with property developers for sell-offs of public assets and mass redevelopment throughout Haringey, especially in the east of the borough.
– Council claims it will ‘save’ £1.4m from its ‘review’ of Community Centres, but this was disputed and in any case the loss of services would be far higher.
– Due to the range and complexity of situations, this was likely to be a slow-burn, long campaign. Apart from the need for an immediate collective response to the Review Report we should build up our Network and pace ourselves for a long haul.
– Need to ‘think outside the box’ in the longer term, and become well-organised to ensure the survival and growth of our Centres and sector
– Individually, Centres can be isolated, become demoralised and ‘picked-off’, but together we are strong and can support each other, share information and advice, and insist on and negotiate the best possible terms for those in our sector
– We should link up with other sectors for mutual support. eg Children’s Centres and user groups of other public services/facilities.
– Our society remains as wealthy as ever. The current obsession with ‘austerity’ and attacks on public services and welfare emanates from the Government and is ideologically-driven so can be challenged.
Haringey Community Centres Network launched
It was agreed to form a Haringey Community Centres Network. 7 of the Centres present agreed to be the founding membership, with others going back to their Management Committees for ratification. All community-run Community Centres in Haringey, whether in Council buildings or not, will be invited to join the network – please let us know!
An HCCN Core Group was elected comprising reps from the Asian Centre, Irish Centre, Selby Centre, Cypriot Centre, Markfield Centre, Hornsey Vale Centre, Lord Morrison Hall, and Lordship Rec Centre. They were tasked with taking forward the most urgent and important of the agreed action points as set out below:
– Seek out and liaise with Councillors who support Community Centres and who may be considering / supporting a ‘call-in’ of the Cabinet decision
– Put in a Freedom of Information Act request for the full Review research, analysis and data
– Find out dates for the next key Council meetings (scrutiny, cabinet, full council etc) which we should lobby
– Set up an HCCN membership email list / website / fb / twitter
– Develop a map of all the existing Centres, and their contact details
– Develop short mission statement based on text from the launch publicity and the 14 July deputation [see draft below]
– Consider/prepare borough-wide petition
– Call for support from all local Councillors and MPs, community organisations and the wider public generally
The Core Group is to meet on Monday 20 July, 7pm at the Asian Centre, 8 Caxton Road N22. Core Group meetings are open to any members of the HCCN.
The following draft text is proposed, based mainly from the launch publicity, the deputation, and the views of the launch meeting:
Community-run Community Centres provide an unparalleled range of diverse services and facilities throughout the borough, based mainly on self-funding and extensive volunteering, saving uncountable sums of money for the Council and statutory services. We promote community cohesion, awareness and empowerment, and all kinds of cultural, educational, social and economic opportunities.
Our Centres are vital and popular community facilities, involving hundreds of the borough’s community groups and tens of thousands of local residents who use their facilities. To thrive, such Centres need secure, long-term and affordable leases which enable, promote and guarantee community empowerment and self-management.
The Haringey Community Centres Network stands up for Haringey’s community-run Community Centres of all kinds, links and supports all those throughout the sector, and celebrates the widespread services and activities carried out on behalf of our communities