Future of Locks Heath centre looks safe as new charity steps in

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THE future of a community centre has been secured after Fareham Borough Council approved plans to hand over its management to a newly-formed association.

The debt-ridden Lockswood Community Centre in Locks Heath was handed back to Fareham by Brookfield Community School last April, and looks set to lose £76,000 by the end of this financial year.

Last October, the council announced the centre was £56,000 in debt, but since then its boiler also failed and has had to be replaced at a cost of a further £20,000.

The council made a commitment to the centre last October to support it until the end of this financial year.

And at the meeting of its ruling executive this week, members agreed to support the formation of the new community association until June.

Council leader Cllr Sean Woodward said: ‘When we took it back from Brookfield it wasn’t in a very good condition.

‘At that meeting last October we had a lot of deputations from people saying “please keep it open”.

‘We said we would, but it would need a group of people to come forward and run it.

‘That has now happened, and full credit to the new Lockswood Community and Sports Association. It’s brilliant that people have stepped up to the plate.’

Ward councillor Keith Evans said: ‘This is great news.

‘We have got a great group here and we will give them all the support we can.

‘There’s no reason why, with a good management structure they can’t eventually make some money.

‘It is in a good location, it’s a reasonable size and they are good people.

‘Community Action Fareham are supporting them and they’ve got a good opportunity with a decent business plan to pull in more community use.

‘Clearly the borough cannot continue to keep supporting those losses, and there’s no obvious reason why it should making a loss where it’s based.’

But the move will also mean a shake-up of the centre’s staffing, and a council report stated: ‘It would be necessary to undertake a restructure of the current staffing arrangements and reduce the number of staff employed in order to achieve a sustainable operation.’

As a result of its new charitable status, the community group would automatically save £13,740 a year from national non-domestic rates, and once internal structuring takes place, about £10,000 in internal management changes.

Cllr Evans added: ‘There will be some restructuring but it hasn’t been decided what will happen on that side of things yet.’

Fellow ward Cllr Susan Bayford said: ‘Six people have come forward from the user groups to form this new association and they have been absolutely magnificent in what has been quite a daunting task.

‘They were a little apprehensive at first, but now they are all very excited about it.’

The full council will approve a trustee to sit on the association’s management committee at its next meeting.

The association will present its business plan to the executive in May, and subject to approval, will take over operations from June 1.