Volunteers ‘unlikely’ to run the Southfield Centre

VOLUNTEERS are being asked to consider taking over the running of council-owned community premises, including the Southfield Community Centre and Eyemouth Community Centre.

But the proposal is “unlikely” to go ahead. Southfield Community Centre committee have had preliminary discussions with Ian Macaulay from Scottish Borders Council’s education and lifelong learning department about volunteers taking over from the council, but chairperson Eileen Bolton said that “it’s very unlikely at the moment that they will go ahead”.

Once they have been given information about the availability of grants, the committee will make a final decision.

Councillor Trevor Jones stressed that the community-led approach is only an option and will not be enforced. He said: “All these people are volunteers, and they may struggle every year to get a chairman, secretary treasurer and without this foundation stone I think it may fall to bits.”

Ten years ago Southfield Community Centre was thought to be under threat of closure when the council was forced to make swingeing cuts because of a £3.9 million overspend in their education budget.

Southfield, is used by more than 60 local organisations and hundreds of people go through its doors every week and it is used by many Berwickshire-wide organisations as well as Duns groups, and was just one a number of community centres under threat.

This latest move by Scottish Borders Council is in line with the government’s initiative to transfer assets from councils to communities who they believe may be able to do a better job of running them for themselves. But Councillor Jones points out that neither Southfield nor any of their other community used properties are at risk of closure if the communities decide against taking over the management.

The council currently has over 60 properties that are directly managed by SBC and it was agreed that they should investigate the possibility of transferring the centres and halls into community ownership if there was sufficient interest shown by the various communities. There is no time frame for the asset transfer, but the door will be kept open.