How they brought the good news of Community House’s saviour from Fenland Hall to Wisbech

Cllr David Oliver announces the £48,000 DWP grant to save Community House

Cllr David Oliver announces the £48,000 DWP grant to save Community House - Credit: Archant

A cabinet member has disclosed how a £48,000 grant from the Department of Works and Pension saved Community House, Wisbech, for at least the next year.

Community House protest: Virginia Bucknor, Terry Van Santen, Stacey Pitcher, Karen Rippin, Keith Rip

Community House protest: Virginia Bucknor, Terry Van Santen, Stacey Pitcher, Karen Rippin, Keith Rippin, Michael Bucknor. - Credit: Archant

Councillor David Oliver announced the community hub in Southwell Road had been saved the day before a 12 week consultation period to consider closing it drew to an end.

“Any proposal to close a community facility is not something a cabinet likes to do,” he said. “Our focus has always been to meet the challenging reductions to our budget in a way that protects important frontline services.”

Faced with the challenge to reduce next year’s budget by nearly £1million “we have had to look at everything and Community House was one such area.

“What is evident at Community House is that it does great work and offers valuable support for local residents. No one is disputing that fact”.

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So among talks to save it, he said officers had met with the Department of Works and Pensions and had agreed a pilot project to use the centre to help residents overcome barriers to skills, training and employment.

The council will work with the DWP on a programme to help users of Community House access services and support to help gain employment. The centre will also be available still to the wider community to access the computer suite and advice services.

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The council also heard from three residents who use the centre, including Stacey Pitcher who described it as “brilliant place for young people to get help and advice. If it closed it would leave a void in many people’s lives.”

Terry Van Santen said he spoke on behalf of residents of two local park home sites which had found it invaluable in providing computer courses and access and advice on many issues.

Ward councillor Virginia Bucknor asked if the council “was aware of the pain and heartache the announcement of possible closure” had caused. Keeping it open was a “wonderful Christmas present.” She criticised cabinet for not initially outlining their closure plans to her as a ward councillor.

Councillor Dave Patrick said that the centre was only saved “because of public pressure” and said until recently its closure had seemed a foregone conclusion.

However Councillor Steve Tierney claimed residents were “led astray” by the closure fears and insisted that at a time of strained budgets the council was only doing its duty in consulting on possible proposals.

“It is terrible when people use it politically to scare monger and worry staff,” he said.

Councillor Sam Hoy said it was true Waterlees was a deprived area but Community House offered services that could be of use to much larger numbers across Wisbech. She hoped this would now happen.

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