Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Charteris will 'close in the near future' - Sue Harper but may re-open in one ot two months - campaigners

Brent Council has decided not to proceed with the Save Charteris Sports Centre Campaign's proposal to take over and run the Centre as a community project.

In a ten page letter Sue Harper, Director of Environment and Neighbourhood Services, sets out the reasons why the council feels the project is not viable.

A detailed analysis was undertaken by officers responsible for sports and leisure provision, specialists in contract and human resources law, senior financial and human resources advisors and a Health and Safety Inspector.

The council make it clear that any proposal should be at zero cost to them and have no risks attached. They set out risks in terms of the financial viability of the proposal and question the Campaign's assumptions about revenue streams and expenditure, costs of running the building and long term maintenance, and question the free transfer of equipment assets worth £40,000.  They question whether the proposed staffing structure would ensure health and safety and suggest that TUPE would apply if the main functions of the Centre continue. Applying TUPE would involve additional costs.

The council says the proposal does not meet the expectation that Charteris would be a safe facility and cites the proposal's silence on CRB checks and safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. They suggest that the council may face legal challenge from other potential users if they offered the building at a peppercorn rent to the Charteris Campaign.

After thanking the group for the 'interest they have shown'  Sue Harper concludes: "...however, we cannot ignore the financial and legal risks involved for the council, and so we will be implementing the decision to close Charteris Sports Centre in the near future."

One key summary comment in the Council's Appraisal is perhaps a warning to other campaigns, including those proposing 'volunteer' solutions for libraries faced with closures, as well as raising issues about the viability of the  'Big Society' in general:
"Heavy reliance on volunteers. Will this commitment be sustained? Must recognise high likelihood of turnover as some people use volunteering as a springboard to career and others move away.
Insufficient material on how volunteer base will be recruited, nurtured and managed without the hard core becoming lumbered and themselves drifting away...
Meanwhile campaigners have invited supporters to attend the Centre this evening between 8 and 10pm to mark its last day as a Brent-run facility.  They still hope to re-open the facility  in one or two months saying that they have offers of 'serious money' from two sports charities and support from the Minister of Sport, Mayor of London, local MPs and some local councillors.

Save Charteris on FACEBOOK

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