Gatehouse Community Centre
Welcome to Gatehouse Community Centre
The Management Committee of the Community Centre has news we would like to share with our local community, users and supporters.
The past six months has been a difficult period for the Gatehouse Community Centre, as it has been for all community centres and village halls. We closed the Centre on March 23rd in line with Government instructions and have not been able to reopen since. This means, of course, that we have received almost no income since then although we were successful in obtaining a Covid interruption support grant.
Even before lockdown we had been actively considering what our purpose should now be and how best to prepare the building to meet it. We have become increasingly aware that changing demographics and lifestyles were inevitably leading to reduced use of the Centre. Our current business model, predicated on long term residence by the Community Church and the Snooker Club, together with hourly hire by local groups and organisations, is no longer sustainable. As you will know from our AGMs the Centre could previously rely on a small surplus each year but now, due to declining usage, this is no longer the case. In the last financial year we barely broke even and our financial future looks insecure.
Unfortunately, it is also the case that the building itself requires essential repairs. These include continued renovation of the external render and associated works, reconditioning of the roof and essential electrical upgrades on safety grounds. In addition, the interior is tired, dated and does not present an image that we would wish to project. We estimate that at least some £50,000-£70,000 will be needed to finance them, which is quite beyond the resources the Centre currently has available.
Chief amongst these are essential electrical works. An inspection of the electrical mains system in August revealed several defects that were categorised as potentially dangerous to life or fire safety and require immediate action before we can reopen, irrespective of the Covid situation. Without these our third party insurance cover may be invalid. The cost is substantial at around £8,000, which represents almost 50% of our reserves. At this stage, and without the certainty of a viable future, we do not think it would be right or prudent to commit such a large proportion of our cash assets.
The Management Committee has thus decided that if the Centre is to survive we must set a new direction. The work of planning our future is still at an early stage but we are setting up an external steering group with significant Third Sector experience to help us frame a viable plan for the Centre and to advise on grant applications. As part of this process, we will, of course, consult with the local community and other partners and are planning ways of doing so in the present Covid situation. In addition to remaining a home for local activities, our early thinking is to work with community partners to develop a hub to support health, well-being and sustainability.
We are also in the final stages of becoming a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) following the decision taken at our last AGM. As a SCIO the Centre becomes an independent legal entity able to hold assets (e.g. the building) and liabilities (e.g. utility contracts) in its own right rather than, as at present, as the personal responsibility of named office bearers. Importantly, the SCIO will have a new constitution under which anyone resident in Gatehouse of Fleet can become a Member, rather than as at present only those who already belong to a user group. During the coming year we expect to hold a final AGM to close the existing charity and an inaugural AGM to relaunch as the SCIO.
The Management Committee must, however, take decisions for the immediate future. The electrical situation makes it impossible to reopen, notwithstanding any future relaxation of the Covid19 restrictions, without spending several thousand pounds that might just disappear down a black hole and which in our opinion could be better used as matching funds for a grant proposal.
Thus, we have reluctantly and regrettably taken the decision not to reopen the Community Centre until January 2021 at the earliest and to place it on a care and maintenance regime in the meantime.
We know that this will be a major disappointment for all our users, including the Community Church and the Snooker Club, but we’re sure that you’ll appreciate that we haven’t taken this decision lightly. We do, however, believe it makes the best use of our limited resources. By that time we expect to have a clearer sense of the way ahead and to be able to make major financial decisions in the confidence that they will form part of an overall investment strategy.
Community Centre Management Committee