County council’s hollow pledge to keep Queen Mary centre open as they refuse all weekend bookings

CRITICS believe Cambridgeshire County Council is hell bent on closing the Queen Mary Centre, Wisbech, earlier than planned by refusing bookings and returning deposits.

Despite pledging to keep the community centre open until mid 2013 the council is refusing bookings for weekend events.

Saturday’s annual Wisbech Exotic Cat Show has switched from the Queen Mary Centre to Tydd St Giles Community Centre despite the council originally accepting the booking. The organisers later had their deposit returned.

County councillor Simon King is to take up a complaint that a church was also prevented from booking the centre over the New Year.

Cllr King said he was “absolutely shocked” by the council’s refusal to take weekend bookings.

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“It is contrary to everything I have been told,” he said. “It is not as they promised it. My understanding was the centre would remain open until 2013.”

A council spokesman said the centre couldn’t take bookings “if there isn’t any

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staff. Who is going to open up, lock up, clear up etc?

“Would you like to be the next group to use the centre after the cat club’s been in and there’s been nobody to clean it?”

The spokesman said the council used to hold youth clubs at the centre but now does more work in schools and on a one-to-one basis with young people.

“This is seen as an improvement and is well received,” said the spokesman. “It’s these youth workers who used to open the building, lock it up, etc. Youth clubs are still organised but by parish councils.”

Christian book shop owner and Kings Church member Richard Welford said on the county council’s own website ShapeYourPlace that he “walked past the Queen Mary Centre at 8pm on December 31 - there was no activity going on.

“The King’s Church had asked for permission to hold a New Year’s Eve event there, but had been refused. Why was this?

“This is another instance of the council turning potential users away in order to substantiate its claim that the centre in underused.”

He added: “Where else in Wisbech is there a 400-seater multi-purpose theatre?”

Cllr King said: “I’m amazed that the King’s Church was treated in this way and I will find out what has happened.

“I’m working with a community group to see if we can keep the centre open and I hope others will want to be involved too.”

The county council had earlier insisted closure of the Queen Mary Centre is not scheduled until the spring of 2013.

The council says it is consolidating its portfolio of properties in Wisbech and opening a new local HQ at the Isle campus

“We need to remember that the council will be relocating from three buildings in Wisbech, not just the QMC,” said a spokesman.

“Employees in Stermyn Street and Churchill Road will also be relocated and Cambridgeshire County Council will exit the leasehold agreements for these two other buildings.

“In addition, QMC is expensive to run because the running costs (heating, maintenance etc) need to be met even though the building is being underused.”

Cllr King has described “communication with the people of Wisbech as dreadful and the centre should be taking bookings until 2013.”

Barbara McEwen, who organises the annual cat show, said the �50 deposit was returned with a curt note explaining that the centre was closing and could take no further bookings.

“They wished us well in finding an alternative venue,” she said. “They never cashed the cheque – just returned it.”

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