Proposed Closure of Goldenhill Community Centre

SAGE Residents Public Meeting, Thursday 15th September 2016

Almost 100 people were left devastated on Thursday evening after attending the Sandyford & Goldenhill Residents Public Meeting, only to be told of the proposed closure of Goldenhill Community Hall/Centre, which could be as early as March 2017.

It was reported by Councillor Martin Garner that he and Ruth Smeeth M.P. attended a meeting with members of Stoke on Trent City Council earlier in the day to be told of their decision. Councillor Garner went onto say, under the previous administration (Labour), the community hall was allowed to continue; under the new administration (Conservative/City Independents), they have decided to look at its future again.

Councillor Garner informed residents that it is said the community centre is making a loss, and the council wants to transfer the building to a voluntary group. Mr Garner added that voluntary groups have been contacted, including S.A.G.E. but they are not optimistic at doing this. The councillor further said, if nothing is moving forward by the end of March 2017 (asset transfer) then Goldenhill Community Hall/Centre could close and go onto the open market (premise sale).

A Distraught lady resident commented, if the community centre closes “this is our life, it is where the old people come to meet, and we are lonely old people”.

Councillor Conteh said, the simple fact is that he does not want to close Goldenhill Community Centre, the council has met with Councillor Garner and Ruth Smeeth M.P. but the centre is losing over £30,000 a year. Councillor Conteh went onto say, if the community centre is losing money then a community group needs to run it or the costs need to be reduced, and then added he needs to see the figures first, it is not his decision.

Councillor Martin Garner commented that the previous Labour administration absorbed the loss, they saw the benefits of keeping the centre operating within the community. Councillor Garner added, the new administration (Conservative/City Independents) are not prepared to run the community centre at a loss.

Councillor Randy Conteh said he is passionate about communities, and wants to find a solution to the situation. Mr Conteh further added, he did not know why the previous (Labour) administration allowed the community centre to be run over budget, you can’t absorb wasted money, the council need to save 20 million pounds a year.

Randy Conteh informed residents that he is on the side of the community, and it is not in his personal plans to close the community centre. Mr Conteh went onto say, “try to reduce costs, there is funding out there”.

Tom Simpson, Secretary, S.A.G.E. informed the meeting that he has had input into applying for funding, and on many occasion he has been advised, including council personnel that funding is out there, and easy to get. Mr Simpson went onto say, obtaining funding is anything but easy to obtain; you can apply for 20 funding bids and get nothing, and if you do as with the Big Lottery, you are required to attend courses in Birmingham, and send in interim reports. Tom Simpson added, it is a large responsibility for volunteers to take on as in being liable could mean individuals losing money and in some cases their homes.

Mr Simpson further added that it is becoming very difficult for residents associations to operate, and that is why more and more of them are folding, especially if taking on additional responsibility.

Councillor Randy Conteh suggested that another meeting should be arranged to talk the situation over as in the option of a way forward. Councillor Conteh went onto say, “he will return and talk things over further”.

Lynn Dunning, S.A.G.E. Chairman said, we must do our utmost to keep Goldenhill Community Hall/Centre open.

Councillor Randy Conteh spoke to residents before the meeting ended by thanking S.A.G.E. for inviting him, and then added that he will do his best to keep the Community Centre open.

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