Future of Dunston Activity Centre secured

by The Gateshead Housing Company & filed under Gateshead Council, Get in touch - your housing office, Help in your home - rent and benefits, News.

Dunston_housing_office_4A local church has taken over the running of Dunston Activity Centre as a means of ensuring that the previously Gateshead Council-run centre can continue to operate.

Responsibility for the running of the centre, which boasts a library, housing office, and a range of sport and community facilities, has now transferred from Gateshead Council to the Dunston Family Church as a result of the £110m of savings which the council has been required to make since 2010.

The new operators have pledged to retain as many of the present services operating out of the building as possible, although the way some services are delivered are likely to change.

The library has become a volunteer-run library run by the Dunston Family Church with support from Gateshead Council.

Recruitment and training of volunteers to operate the library has now taken place and the library is open to the public.

The gym will continue to operate and anyone who is a Dunston Activity Centre member will have access.

Gateshead Active Card members will no longer be able to use the facilities, although similar facilities are available at the nearby Dunston Leisure Centre. Gymnastics coaching will continue as before with no change in service.

The Gateshead Housing Company will continue to operate within the centre.

Facilities for paying rent, service charges and Council Tax will cease on 23 December 2015, but alternative arrangements for payments are already in place and customers are being advised of these when making a payment or contacting the housing company.

Councillor Gary Haley, Cabinet member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, says: “There has been some concern locally that Dunston Activity Centre has been threatened with closure. I am pleased to say that this is now definitely not the case.

“By transferring responsibility for the building and its services to the Dunston Family Church, we have safeguarded the future of the centre and the services it provides.

Dunston Family Church has assured us of their intention to maintain the existing services and activities, and we have been impressed by their clear focus on meeting the community’s need.

“The church submitted a business plan which demonstrated that it has sufficient capacity to manage the centre and take it forward.

“I am therefore confident that by transferring responsibility for Dunston Activity Centre to the Dunston Family Church, the centre will continue to play an important part in community life far into the future.”

Ed Nichols from Dunston Family Church, says: “We are delighted with Gateshead Council’s transfer of Dunston Activity Centre to us.

“Working in partnership with Gateshead Council, we will continue to provide the rich vein of current activities and services for local people and to maintain high standards of ‘customer’ care and satisfaction. In a phrase: business as usual!

“We are enthusiastic about working with Gateshead Council to further build a strong sense of community through the centre.

“By developing the current programme of activities for all ages, we desire to promote personal and social well-being and to heighten self-esteem.

“Our aim is to attract more and more volunteers into the centre thereby providing opportunities for residents to use and develop their gifts, learn new skills and fulfil their potential in new dimensions.

“Needless to say, we are now available to meet with local people to discuss ideas for new activities, to consider accommodation for new classes and groups and to engage with local organisations and businesses with a view to providing office space. “

In February this year, Cabinet members approved the withdrawal of £120,000 in financial subsidy to three leisure centres – Dunston Activity Centre, the Gateshead Indoor Bowling Centre and Whickham Thorns Outdoor Activity Centre – as part of its £110m of savings since 2010.

Efforts then began on securing the long-term future of all three premises for a future without support from Gateshead Council, either by transferring responsibility to a local community group – a so-called community asset transfer – or by partnership with another organisation or acquisition by a private company.

If none of these solutions could be found by 1 October 2015 then those premises would have had to close.

Gateshead Indoor Bowling Centre also now operates outside of Gateshead Council control, with responsibility for its operation passing to a group made up of the centre’s users.

No decision has yet been taken on the future of the Whickham Thorns Outdoor Activity Centre as Gateshead Council continues to evaluate proposals from interested parties to operate the centre from April 2016.

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