Council accused of playing politics with new centre

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COUNCILLORS have been accused of being politically motivated in deciding who runs a new community centre.

The claim came at a public meeting to discuss how Fareham Borough Council awarded the lease for the new £2m Portchester Community Centre to Portchester Community School.

Portchester Community Association (PCA) has run the existing centre at Westlands Grove for the past 45 years, and it also tendered a business plan bidding for the lease.

But the council’s ruling executive voted to back the school on the recommendation of a panel which had examined the two bids.

Addressing the leader of the council, Cllr Sean Woodward, who had just given a presentation about the centre, Shaun Cunningham of Shearwater Avenue in Fareham said: ‘I put it to you, this whole process was a political process.

‘You spoke about the task and finish panel, which was five Conservatives and only one non-Conservative. But when you look at Portchester, there’s three non-Conservative and two Conservative councillors. Your agenda from day one was to remove the PCA from the centre.’

But Cllr Woodward said: ‘The only agenda I’ve had in this process is to produce a community centre for Portchester.’

He added: ‘The law of the land requires that when panels are set up by the council they are on a politically proportionate basis to the number of councillors as a whole.’

Last night’s meeting at Cams Hill School was at times bad tempered and punctuated by applause for speakers from the floor.

Another member of the public asked for a show of hands from people who backed the school to run the centre. Only a handful did.

Adrienne Dykes, of King George Road, in Portchester asked how the public could be sure the best decision had been reached when the school’s business plan has not been made public. The PCA has published its plan.

She added: ‘I hope the school will run it better, if they’ve been given the lease, but how can we tell if we can’t see it?’

Cllr Woodward said he hoped the school would release its plan after the lease has been signed.