Funding needed to keep Portsmouth centre open and running

ANGRY Shirley Hobbs who is the manager of the Paulsgrove Learning and Leisure Centre. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (123826-5)
ANGRY Shirley Hobbs who is the manager of the Paulsgrove Learning and Leisure Centre. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (123826-5)
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A COMMUNITY centre in the heart of Paulsgrove could be forced to close after having its funding withdrawn.

The Paulsgrove Learning and Leisure Centre, on Marsden Road, offers adult education and life skill courses as well as being a regular meeting point for many community groups.

Nicknamed the Cyber Cafe by people in the area, the centre costs around £20,000 to run – £12,000 of which is raised through its courses and services.

It received grants from the Skills Funding Agency and UK Online for the remaining £8,000, but those who work in the centre have been told they will not get any funding next year.

Having been unable to secure grants elsewhere, centre manager Shirley Hobbs says it will be forced to close at the end of December unless someone steps in to save it.

She said: ‘It will be a huge loss to the community if this centre closes, there are just so many people that use it.

‘We help build up people’s confidence, to the stage that lots of them end up getting qualifications or jobs, and we offer a place for them to get together.

‘Lots of groups meet here, including a knitting group and an after school club.

‘It’s a really important place for the whole of community, some of these people have no where else to go. It’s their centre and they don’t want to lose it.’

Shirley first got involved with the centre – located behind Paulsgrove Community Centre – seven years ago when she attended classes in a bid to boost her self-esteem.

In 2005 she began working at the centre as a volunteer and has since worked her way up to the paid position of manager.

She added: ‘I’d be devastated if this place closed, it means everything to me.’

Lorraine Taynton, 40, of Copnor Road, Copnor, used the centre to gain maths and English qualifications and improve her social skills.

She said: ‘I had no confidence when I started coming here. I wouldn’t speak to anyone I didn’t know, but now I can speak to a room full of people.

‘It’s helped me so much, I don’t know what I would’ve done if it wasn’t here.’

Cllr Jim Patey, chairman of Paulsgrove Community Association, has said he will try to help staff find a sponsor for the centre.

He said: ‘The cafe is quite popular with the community. It’s beneficial to young people as well as elderly residents and improves their quality of life. These people would be at a disadvantage if it closed.’