'Amazing model' of Big Society saved from closure

Apr 11 2011 - 8:14pm

Published in:
Local Government Chronicle
8 April, 2011 | By Allister Hayman

One of the country’s largest community centres hailed by a minister as an “amazing model” of the Big Society has been saved from closure after its funding was reinstated.

Haringey LBC has confirmed it has reversed its decision to terminate its funding to the Selby Centre in Tottenham. The council had planned to axe the grant, due to public spending cuts.

Sona Mahtani, chief executive of the Selby Trust, said that after an “intense local campaign” Haringey LBC has reinstated the Selby Trust’s £163,000 annual grant, which the Trust depends on to pay the rent for the Selby Centre.

The Selby Centre provides facilities for more than 100 social enterprises, as well a range of community services. Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone (Lib Dem) described the centre recently as “an amazing model” of the Big Society in action.

A council spokesman said the decision to reinstate the grant had been taken after an investigation of the Selby Trust’s financial position.

“Following that work, auditors recommended that funding could continue - subject to a number of conditions about the way the trust manages its accounts and funding, including a review of its expenditure and staffing levels.

“It must also take urgent steps to recover all rent arrears, stopping the current practice of giving loans to staff and ensure that all members of staff have a valid Criminal Records Bureau check.

“We will continue to monitor the situation at the Selby Trust to ensure that the recommendations have been implemented in order to improve the future financial viability of the organisation.

“As part of that monitoring, monthly updates have been requested from The Selby Trust. We believe that, following implementation of these recommendations, the Selby Trust will be in a position to improve its future sustainability.”

Ms Mahtani, said the trust generated a £52,000 surplus in 2009-10 and expected the same in 2010-11, but added that its long-term viability depended on the council granting a long-term extension to its 25-year lease, which runs out in 12 years.

She said: “We welcome the decision made by the council to continue supporting the Selby Centre but we will continue to seek a longer lease and explore the options of how to achieve progress in the partnership with the council.

“Much can and remains to be done to transform Haringey from its current position as one of London’s poorest boroughs. We hope to continue to be the solution for many community groups who need space and access to some of Tottenham’s most vulnerable groups.”

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