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Community centres ‘vindicated’ after ‘potentially-lethal‘ plans to change rents are overturned

Paul O'Connor at Inchgarth Community Centre. Picture by Darrell Benns.
Paul O'Connor at Inchgarth Community Centre. Picture by Darrell Benns.

Community centre leaders in Aberdeen say they have been “vindicated” after plans they feared could force their closure were overturned.

Concerns were raised that proposed changes to the community centre rent agreements would spell disaster by leaving them unable to apply for certain avenues of funding.

While most of the leased centres in the city are partway through 10-year leases, a report before councillors yesterday recommended they were scrapped and changed to just three years.

Andy Finlayson, from the Altens and Cove Community Association, said the process had caused “anguish and anxiety” for many.

He told the operational delivery committee: “Most applications require a 10 year lease before they will put money in.

“We have had to turn down grant opportunities because we are on a short lease.”

And Paul O’Connor, chairman of Inchgarth Community Centre, said “no funder in their right mind” would consider investing in a facility if it appeared to be under threat.

After grilling officers on the potential consequences of the move, councillors agreed to revert back to the standard 10-year rent.

They also vowed to help any centres with funding applications if the money hinges on them having a lease of a certain length.

Convener John Wheeler said: “We have incorporated the 10-year lease, should any centres require that.

“We didn’t want to make it over-prescriptive so if centres do not wish that lease they are not required to take it. I hope that satisfies a number of concerns.”

Mr O’Connor said: “We made a strong case for this throughout the last year – and the last 20 years – and hopefully we can get on with the already difficult job of running our successful, value-for-money, low cost, tremendous return-on-investment community centres.”

Mr Finlayson added: “The fact we have come along and shown we’re not comfortable and they have agreed to change it is a very good thing.

“We’re looking forward to this future relationship with the council.”

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