Agenda item

Community Centres

To note the proposals for the three Community Centres in Banstead, Woodhatch and Horley and make any observations for consideration by the Executive.


Members received a report on the transformation of the three community centres in Banstead, Horley and Woodhatch.

Councillor Ashford, Executive Member and Portfolio Holder for Community Partnerships, gave an introduction and overview to the report which set out progress made and public surveys that had been carried out. It found that the community centres operated in an outdated over-50s club model with the Council’s approach needing to be refreshed. The new multi-use community centres will continue to welcome existing users but plan to offer services for more residents of different age groups. The COVID-19 pandemic had severely curtailed service delivery from the centres, although some services have continued to be delivered. More than 1200 residents had responded to the survey regarding the proposed changes and there was huge interest from people who wanted a place to meet and connect with others. Community development teams could also use the centres to support people. A food club had been set up in Woodhatch and Horley, and a new programme was being developed in Horley to support under-fives. A dementia support group was being set up in Horley.

The plan was to bolster the team and develop leadership and market the changes with a local promotion and engagement campaign. The programme was seeking an additional budget growth proposal of £71k for new staff resource through service and financial planning for 2022/23 onwards to deliver and sustain the planned changes. The programme was also bidding for £15k from the Corporate Plan Delivery Fund Reserve in 2021/22 to deliver re-branding and marketing for the centres.

Councillor Ashford thanked officers, particularly Head of Community Partnerships, Justine Chatfield, and Transformation Manager, Isabel Wootton, for their work and commitment to the project.  Councillor Ashford asked for the Committee to note the proposals and make any observations for the Executive to consider.

Members welcomed the report and update and made the following observations and comments:

Learning and development – Members asked if this was for the staff and volunteers or for the residents themselves? It was confirmed that this was for staff and volunteers and there was an opportunity to increase this learning and development with the Council and other partner organisations.

Future look of the community centres – Members asked what good would look like in regard to the community centres in two years’ time. This would not be a ‘once size fits all’ approach and services would develop differently in the three local community centres, driven by what local people wanted to see. There were opportunities to expand services later in the day and at weekends and to make use of these spaces throughout the week. The plan was to engage with a wider age range of residents and more diverse communities with different activities organised for different groups.

Engaging with local schools – Members wanted to know more about engagement with local schools to find out what services could be provided and extend the care given within schools where families needed additional support. If communities wanted to take this forward then this would be facilitated. For example, Woodhatch community centre had engaged with Sandcross School locally. This had taken place because there were good local links with this school. Post Covid lockdowns, there was more opportunity to develop and generate good links with local schools in other areas.

Learning from other projects in the Borough – the Council was drawing on the knowledge and experience of other hubs in the Borough, for example the Merstham hub which had developed in recent years. The three community centres however, had hundreds of established members so they wanted to tread carefully and make sure current members were not alienated and to build services around them.

Projected income – Members noted the bar charts in the report which showed that income would increase in the centres by going to multi-use and using the space more frequently. They asked if the rental charges would be going up. Councillor Ashford reassured Members that the intention was not to price out current users but to bring the community in to using the centres, and to address current anomalies in room hire rates. The commercial rates would depend on usage but the income growth projected was due to increased footfall and room hire rather than increased prices.

Linking the community centres with a wider catchment area – Members questioned how the community centres would link to other hubs such as the Harlequin and other community hubs in town centres such as Redhill so there was an equal service to all residents. Officers confirmed that work was ongoing to map services locally with partner organisations and other community organisations. They were also looking at developing an outreach programme to look at how to fill gaps and community provision across the Borough.

Research undertaken – Officers had visited seven community centres in Elmbridge pre-Covid to look at best practice and looked at their services. They had also worked with colleagues in Tandridge District Council, Woking Borough Council and in Surrey County Council to research information and ideas to support the new approach.

Remit with older people – Members were concerned that a wider remit may crowd out older people’s space and needed to make sure that the current usage for older people did not decrease over time. Councillor Ashford reassured the Committee that it was the Council’s ambition to keep services for older people but also use the centres at the times of the day when they were not being used. The Council was not winding down services for older people but adding to them. There were also wellbeing opportunities for older people to mix with younger people, including children.

Loneliness and isolation – combatting loneliness was one of the top three reasons identified by residents for wanting to use the centres with wellbeing workshops and issues of dementia being explored. There were longstanding community centres in Banstead, Woodhatch and Horley but there were gaps in other areas such as Nork. Transport needed to be in place to ensure that all residents could benefit from the services at these centres. It was noted that work was ongoing with partner organisations such as an outreach service with Dementia First in Horley, as the charity had its base in Tandridge. There would be services which were specific to each community centre.

Membership of centres – the issue of membership or non-membership was discussed. Before the community centres were taken back in-house then residents were required to join as members of individual centres. However, this system did not work well as people wanted to visit each centre and this was felt to be the wrong approach. Post the pandemic, it was proposed that there would be an optional loyalty scheme so there was an element of belonging to a centre with discounts on lunch or other activities but not a membership scheme. This would avoid penalising families or vulnerable residents who could not afford or did not want to pay a membership fee and would encourage more residents to use the centres.

Future capital funding – Members asked about future funding available for the community centres. There was provision in the capital programme for capital expenditure that may be necessary in future such as replacing a boiler or roofing.

Timing of revenue funding – the Executive would be asked to agree £15k for a rebranding and marketing exercise to bring in short term expertise to market and reposition the centres to a wider audience. The request for additional resource was for use in this financial year to enable the transformation plans to be delivered. The funding for the Team Leader post was being sought from 2022/23 as there was sufficient funding for 2021/22 within existing budgets due to savings from some vacancies as a result of COVID-19 earlier this year, and there was capacity in the 2021/22 budget to recruit for the Team Leader position.

Local museum facilities – Councillor Harp asked about the possibility of having a local museum facility, for example, in the Banstead centre as there was no museum currently in the Borough. It was noted that there was an active history society in Banstead. Councillor Ashford said there was an opportunity for local groups to come and use these centres and make an offer to their communities. Those interested in this type of project should come and talk to the Council.

RESOLVED that the Committee:

(i)             Noted the proposals for the community centres and set out the observations in the Minutes to be considered by the Executive.

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