'Big Society' Selby Centre, in Tottenham, could be forced to close
By Elizabeth Pears
9:24am Wednesday 23rd February 2011
A COMMUNITY centre in Tottenham hailed as an "amazing model" of the Big Society in action is at risk of closure.
Haringey Council has said it has decided "in principle" to terminate the £163,000 of annual funding it gives to the Selby Centre, in Selby Road, at the end of March.
Haringey Council said it had concerns about the centre's viability, adding a final decision would not be made until a full audit of the Selby Trust, which runs the multi-cultural hub, had been completed.
The centre provides facilities for more than 100 social enterprises as well as training facilities, a crèche, a supplementary school and sports and events spaces.
Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone MP, who represents Hornsey and Wood Green, called it "an amazing model” of Big Society in action.
Sona Mahtani, Selby Trust chief executive, said the centre was around 70 per cent self-sufficient, generating income through affordable rents paid by organisations using its facilities.
But it did depend on the council's grant, which is paid straight back to cover the overall rent.
She said: "Anyone who takes the time to examine the situation closely will find widespread acknowledgement that the community users, charities and trustees have built up something very special over the past 22 years. The social capital is through the roof with 100 per cent occupancy and capacity for further growth.
"Selby's motto of 'Many cultures, one community' befits Haringey, now classified as the poorest borough in London. Selby Trust must remain to help people at a grass roots level for the tough times ahead. But the council audit comes at a time when local authorities may feel greater pressure to generate income from selling off land to developers."
The Selby Trust has been locked in a tug-of-war battle for a long-term extension to its 25-year lease which has 11 years left to run.
If it had a longer lease, the Selby Trust said, it would be able to attract other social investment.