Communty centre’s future looks bleak

The future of Newton Stewart Community Centre now hangs in the balance after the local authority’s budget looks to make savings of £7.2 million in the next financial year.

Dumfries and Galloway Council is pressing ahead with plans to cut down the number of community facilities in the region to save an estimated £1 million over three years.

Places like the popular community centre now face a battle to justify their existence. If, after a review, the community centre is deemed not cost-effective by the cash-strapped council, the 22 groups who use it on a regular basis will have to move to another facility or go down the community buy-out route.

Consultation will now take place with the users of all community centres and village halls in Dumfries and Galloway to identify the “highest priority buildings for integration”.

The council’s budget report states: “Community facilities are made up of village halls and community centres which pro­vide space for local community groups to meet and undertake group activities.

“These opportunities can be provided through the facilities available in other community buildings such as town halls or local schools.

“A review will determine the best solution for each council-owned community facility including integration with local schools or other community owned buildings or transfer to the community.

“Within the four council areas there are 66 community facilities operated by our council. The net controllable budget for community faci­lities is £827,000 of which approximately 25 per cent is staff caretaking costs.”

The report adds that under the headline “Issues”, council officials say there are “none in particular”. They admit that disposing of properties “surplus to requirements” may take some time.

Mid Galloway Councillor Jim McColm said this latest news did not necessarily mean curtains for Newton Stewart Community Centre.

He said: “Nothing has been ruled out as we are basically at the consultation stage. I have plans to meet with the users of the community centre in Newton Stewart to hear at first hand their problems regarding any move from the community centre as around 500 people use it.”