Growing anger over potential closure of South Tyneside community centres

Clegwell Archers.
Clegwell Archers.

Community centre users in South Tyneside are up in arms over a review which could spell the death knell for the community assets.

South Tyneside Council leader, Coun Iain Malcolm, has authorised a review into the borough’s community centres as part of a money-saving exercise.

South Shields Volunteer Lifeguards Penney Wilkinson, centre, with daughters Pamela, left, and Gillian

South Shields Volunteer Lifeguards Penney Wilkinson, centre, with daughters Pamela, left, and Gillian

As part of the review, officers have been told to identify which venues could survive without a subsidy, those which could be run by other organisations, and those which are not viable.

Critics say that the closure of any of the venues would have a detrimental effect on communities,

Coun Lee Hughes, the Independent – Putting People First representative for the Bede ward in Jarrow, said: “The closure of any of our centres would kill our communities.

“The council seriously needs to look elsewhere to try and save money.

It would kill our communities

Coun Lee Hughes

“At Perth Green there’s in the region of 1,000 members who regularly use it. There’s so many different classes and activities going on. Where do they expect people to go if the building isn’t there?”

On Wednesday a meeting of centre managers was called, and bosses were told they will have to find their own funding if they want to stay open.

Coun Malcolm has asked officers to identify centres likely to produce a viable business plan, those that will struggle and, if there is scope to allow other organisations to bid to run the centre. They have also been asked to identity those which are not considered viable.

The report will be submitted with the council’s cabinet making the decision on the future of each community centre.

Brinkburn Community Centre

Brinkburn Community Centre

Penney Wilkinson, who is secretary of South Shields Volunteer Life Guard Club – which is based at Brinkburn CA in Harton Lane, South Shields – said: “We run lifesaving courses from the pool at Brinkburn, alongside vocational ones, and it’s where we train our rookies. Where on earth would we just relocate to?

“It would be devastating if we didn’t have these facilities available. There’s always something going on at Brinkburn. It’s a well-used centre and it would be awful if anything was to happen to it.

Susan Murdock, who runs the Clegwell Archery Club at Clegwell Community Association in Hebburn, believes any closure would have a big impact on residents.

She said: “We’ve been here about eight years now, we have more than 40 members and we also run courses with Newcastle University, it’s a very popular club.

“In fact there’s all sorts of things which go on here, from after school clubs to Pilates. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if this building were to close, it would have a huge effect on the community.

A council spokesman said all households will have been notified about the current ongoing budget consultation in the South Tyneside Residents’ Newsletter.

A spokesman added: “The budget consultation is ongoing and this information has been sent out to every household in the borough.”