Equalities minister's Big Society "model" faces closure

Mar 8 2011 - 6:14pm

Published in:
Civil Society
By Vibeka Mair on 24 Feb 2011

A community centre lauded by the equalities minister as an “amazing model” of Big Society in action is at risk of closure due to public spending cuts.

Haringey Council has taken a decision “in principle” to terminate a £163,000 annual grant to the Selby Centre in north London.

The council says it has concerns about the centre’s viability and said a final decision on the grant funding will be made after a full audit of the Selby Trust, which runs the Selby Centre.

The Selby Centre (pictured) provides facilities for more than 100 social enterprises and runs community services. Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said after a recent visit that the centre was “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 covers the overall rent. She said: “The circular grant is a paper exchange but without it, this so-called Big Society model at the Selby Centre that has taken 22 years to build up will be lost.”

It is the second example this week of a community centre, which has been praised by those close to government, facing closure.

The Surma Centre, which has been hailed by Samantha Cameron as a "perfect example" of the Big Society, has lost its £125,000 annual grant from Camden Council.

The Evening Standard reported that campaigners fighting to keep the Surma Centre open plan to lobby Mrs Cameron.

The Prime Minister's wife visited the Surma Centre before the general election, when she described it as a perfect example of social action.

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