Future of East Durham community centres in the spotlight

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THE future of community halls across East Durham is up for debate.

New plans could see some shut and others given a cash injection.

Proposals have been drafted for 120 buildings across Durham as the county council tries to save £125million during the next four years.

The authority says it would take £11million to bring the facilities up to scratch, but has put together a £2million-plus package to invest into efforts by volunteers.

As part of a review, it has drawn up a list of buildings which will get cash, others which will only get money if resources become available, those which face closure or being transferred as assets and others which will definitely close.

Among the lists are 12 in East Durham, Durham City and Chester-le-Street which could be supported, 14 which face status quo, four which will be closed and three which are already shut.

The council has said it will help centres seek alternative funding and take control of their buildings.

Next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting will be asked to agree to a three-month consultation.

Gordon Elliott, head of partnerships and community engagement, said: “The review we have carried out has helped us understand much more about how community buildings can play a successful and vibrant role for local people.

“We want to use that knowledge to help aid as many as possible, but crucially to support the excellent work done by the hundreds of volunteers who run everything from toddler groups to bingo nights.”

A decision on the proposals would be made next year.

Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, Coun Brian Stephens, said: “Currently the council provides less than half of the community buildings across the county, but we want to use the resources we have in the best possible way.

“In some cases that support may well be financial.

“In others we will help by organising meetings with funding organisations, facilitating asset transfers where suitable and important advice on the issues facing community groups.”

“We do not have the £11million required to bring all these building up to scratch, so we need the public’s help to decide the best way forward.”

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