‘Use Dearne centres or lose them’ plea

Fir Close Community Centre, Wath Upon Dearne.  Picture: Marie Caley NSYT Fir Close Community MC 3
Fir Close Community Centre, Wath Upon Dearne. Picture: Marie Caley NSYT Fir Close Community MC 3

Dearne residents and groups are being urged to use three community centres - or face losing them.

Fir Close Community Centre in Wath and Oaklea Retreat in West Melton have been put forward for closure, while the future of Rawmarsh People’s Centre is under review as part of a cost-cutting measure by Rotherham Council.

Members of the JD Social Club in Wath.

Members of the JD Social Club in Wath.

All have served their communities well for several decades but council chiefs are expected to rubber stamp the closure plan at a meeting in a few months - unless it can be proven that the facilities are well used.

About 50 members of a social club for adults with disabilities and learning difficulties wrote to the council pleading with them not to close their base at Fir Close.

And Dearne residents are being urged to follow their lead and show how important the facilities are to their communities by making use of them – or risk losing them forever.

Wath councillor Alan Atkin said: “Because of Government-imposed funding cuts, the council is in a difficult position and can’t justify keeping facilities open if they aren’t well used. But if we can prove they are well used, there may be a chance. Use them or lose them.”

He added Wath councillors had approached various community groups about using the facilities and had “two or three” which were interested.

Janet Dawson, 68, of Rawmarsh, who runs the JD Social Club for adults with disabilities and learning difficulties at Fir Close, said: “Our members wrote asking the council to keep it open. This is a lifeline for them. I don’t know what we will do if it closes. We might not be able to find anywhere else.”

A report by the council’s environment and development services said Fir Close is only used for four per cent of opening hours at a cost of £9,010 a year. Oaklea Retreat is only open for seven per cent and costs £13,917 annually. Meanwhile, Swinton Civic Hall is recommended to stay open as it is used for 54 per cent of opening hours.

Coun Atkin said: “For the centres to have a chance, we would need usage up to about 50 per cent.”

The council’s closure plan would save the authority £50, 000 a year to help meet wider government-imposed cuts of £23 million by next April.

The council report states: “The community buildings are not recovering their expenditure and in the majority of cases “are making a loss.”

It recommends the centres close as they are “deteriorating” and concludes: “Failure to close the buildings would result in budget pressures for 2014/15.”

The report says the closed buildings could potentially be offered up for community groups to run.

Rawmarsh People’s Centre is used on seven per cent of opening hours by a bingo club and costs the authority £6,925 a year to run. It recommended that the centre remains open in the short term to see if community leaders can increase usage. A more in depth report is due before council bosses next March.

The report was presented to Rotherham Council’s Cabinet at a meeting in September. Cabinet members asked for council officers to provide more information and deferred their decision to a meeting at a later date, which has not yet been set.

Paul Smith, corporate property manager for Rotherham Council, said: “The recommendation was made after an extensive consultation exercise, which included seeking the opinions of the current users of the buildings. We will continue to work with all groups who use the buildings earmarked for closure to find alternative venues.”

To help keep the centres open contact Coun Atkin on 01709 877476.