Kingsway Community Centre is a resource that I have been looking forward to for such a long time, and now seeing it being built is brilliant. However, now it is so close, there are arguments brewing that could sour the whole thing. There is only going to be one loser, and that’s my community that its going to serve.
A bit of history for context. The Community centre is being provided as a part of their community obligations (known as Section 106 agreements). These are agreements exist as part of the planning cycle, they could almost be called a community kickback, that at a certain number of houses being built, the developers have to contribute to the local infrastructure. As part of these s106 agreements, QUVL is to provide a community centre (as well as the primary schools, contributions to highways and secondary education, sports pavilions etc).
Kingsway already has a community centre, an interim one provided by QUVL which the Parish Council was asked to take on and look after, which it has done for the best part of 7 years. It is on the Kingsway Business Park and is not in Kingsway Itself, but it is still there and I have used it a lot to hold community meetings etc. It is a well used resource and shows how popular one in the centre of Kingsway would be. QUVL have footed the bill for the rent of the building itself, and the Parish Council have footed the bill for maintenance as well as staffing the rental organisation. Given the Parish run this as a “not for Profit”, as it is a community resource as it does with the other community assets it looks after then it was always assumed that it would look after the Kingsway Community Centre too. Given the City had nothing to do with the build or incurred any costs, it was always assumed (by all sides) it would be on Peppercorn rent.
So now comes the spanner. QUVL will hand the keys over to the City Council, and the City Council has decided that it will charge £11,000.00 per year for the building. That’s right, £11k for a building they have not built, or incurred any costs over, not will they. They came to this amount by independent valuation for a “fair value”. However thats a fair value for a building if they had built and maintained it. They have done nothing of the sort, they will do nothing except take the keys from QUVL and hand them over to who ever manages it. This is nothing short of profiteering at the expense of our community.
Take the Parish Council out of the argument, becuase the principle was that the “best athlete” is to be selected from groups that apply to run the building, and that is a principle I agree with but I am enraged by comments in the paper today that the City Council are claiming that it could be a “nice little earner”, especially as they have decided to give essentially 18 months free out of a 25 year contract (with 5 year breaks). In my opinion it is not a resource that should be there to make a profit, it is there as a community resource. It is a resource that is badly needed by our community. What the City Council really mean, it’s a nice little earner for the city coffers, who will also collect council tax on the building too. At the end of the day, the group that is running it will have to cover the costs in their hiring fees, and therefore who pays for the extra rent bill? Its you and I, the community who will use it. Put the Parish Council back into the equation, if they win it, then one council will be profiteering at the expense of another, that is nothing short of a scandal.
Simply, my argument is this – the developers have built a community resource for our community, the city council should be handing this over to the most suitable group to use as a key resource for further developing the groups within the Kingsway Community. They should not be profiteering, and creaming off £11k per year which adds up to Kingsway Tax! In addition, this late minute posturing could delay the opening of the building, and it is my community that is going to suffer for it!
Angry doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this! I hope the community groups that have expressed an interest don’t pull out because of this, as I think the economics can be made to work, but in addition, I think that the City Council need to remove the Kingsway Tax from the s106 buildings that are destined for Kingsway!