Representatives of the 22 clubs and organisations that use Newton Stewart’s Community Centre in York Road gathered together last week to voice their deep concern about the possibility of the centre being axed by Dumfries and Galloway Council to save costs.
Worried community centre members called a special meeting with Gazette reporter Louise Kerr and members of the Cree Valley Community Council to get across to the wider community just how well used the community centre is - seven days a week.
The main hall which has recently been redecorated is ideal for groups like the quilters, line dancers, majorettes and mother and toddlers groups as there is plenty of room and ideal storage space available.
The coffee bar, the attic and the ‘pink room’ also come into use on a weekly basis with almost 600 people in total coming through the doors.
Management committee member Sandy Binks and Wendy Scott explained that the community centre is self-funding will all junior members paying £5 a year and adults £20.
The management committee then pay a levy to Dumfries and Galloway Council for use of the centre and any surplus is used to decorate and furnish the centre.
The council is responsible for keeping the building wind and watertight.
All the representatives at the meeting highlighted the many advantages that the location of the community centre offered them including easy parking, outside facilities, a quiet and discreet location, good storage facilities, easy access for wheelchair users and the low cost of joining.
Their argument is that these well supported and diverse groups could not survive financially if a nominal yearly sum was replaced with £12 a hour at another council run community facility. The safety and security of the many children using the centre was also emphasized.
WHO uses Newton Stewart’s Community Centre and why?
Minngaff Cub Scouts - 35 cub scouts aged 8 to 10 and four leaders. Outdoor area is a big advantage for activities such as learning to put up tents.
Beavers, Cubs and Scouts all meet each week with overlapping times using three different rooms so the transition through the sections as the kids get older is as smooth as it can be.
Newton Stewart Brownies - thirty four Brownies do a variety of activities that help then learn their responsibilities to the community and the world they live in. Group would struggle to find such a well equipped, safe and centrally located venue anywhere else.
50+ Group - started many years ago when the members were just over 50. Many still attend but now have mobility problems and would struggle to find another venue that offers such excellent parking and access.
Art Group - four member meet and socialize while painting - mainly in watercolours. Any venue that charged by the hour, rather than by the venue, would mean keeping the group going would be difficult.
Childminders group - Within the centre this group have sole use of a room they pay a monthly rent for.
This offers a safe and secure environment for the children with its own kitchen and toilet facilities. If the centre was to close they would lose all these facilities affecting approximately 50 families in the area.
Youth Fellowship and Junior Youth Fellowship (Kids Rock) - These are groups run by volunteers from Monigaff Church. They use the community centre because Monigaff Church does not have a church hall and the cost is ideal as entry is only 50p. The church is not in a position to pay more towards the running of the group.
Homestart Wigtownshire - this charitable based organisation supporting children and families in the Wigtownshire area use the community centre to run parent and toddler groups.
The facility is idea as it provides affordable, comfortable surroundings with private areas for one-to-one discussions with parents. Cost of hiring an alternative venue like the McMillan Hall would put addition pressure on their finances and threaten the sustainability of the group.
Other users include the quilters group, majorettes, line dancers, badminton club, Deb’s Divas dancing group and zumba and karate classes.
Dumfries and Galloway Council staff also use rooms for:
English lessons for people whose first language is not English; supported employment groups, job club, computer skills, literacy and numeracy classes; sports for users of the ARC (activity and resource centre) in Newton Stewart; youth club; cookery classes and Duke of Edinburgh Award training.
Representatives of the community centre management committee attended the monthly meeting of the Cree Valley Community Council on Monday night to voice their concern to community leaders and elected members.