Community groups voice fears over review plans

Ocean Road Community Assocation groups concerned over the future of the centre
Ocean Road Community Assocation groups concerned over the future of the centre

Members of a South Tyneside community centre say they have been left “worried” over the future of the building.

Groups who use Ocean Road Community Association have spoken out after the council announced it is reviewing the borough’s community centres as part of a money-saving exercise.

We don’t want to see our community centre going.

Helen Gibson

Council Leader, Coun Iain Malcolm has ordered council officers to identify those centre which could survive without a subsidy, those which could be run by other organisations and those which are not viable.

Those council officers believe will not survive on their own could be closed.

The review has led to fear among the thousands of people who rely on community centres across South Tyneside to take part in a wide range of activities.

Group leaders are also fearful if the centres go it could lead to the demise of their groups.

Helen Gibson, who runs the Quilts and Sewing group, said: “My group are very comfortable where they are and obviously we have been there for years and don’t want to move.

“Moving and trying to find somewhere else to go would be really upsetting for the members.

“We don’t want to see our community centre going and I think we have the same feeling as everyone else. We just can’t believe it could be a possibility and just hope it does not happen.

“We have been together for 18 years and we don’t want to disband.

“It’s just all very sad. No one from the council has come in and spoken to us and to find out how we feel.”

Beth Wood, who runs a judo club at the centre, said: “We have over 100 children who attend our sessions and if this centre closes then it would be devastating not just for our group but for the community. It is such a busy centre and it would be a shame to see it go.”

The report, which is part of a wider budget process for 2016/17 and beyond, will be submitted with the council’s cabinet making the decision on the future of each community centre.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “The council continues its programme of remodelling services and buildings to meet the needs of local communities in South Tyneside.

“Due to unprecedented central Government cuts, we must ensure that services are delivered in the most efficient and effective way and provide value for money.

“The budget process for 2016/17 and beyond is currently under way and no decisions have yet been taken.”