Village halls under threat

In a bid to save £43,000 from the community and customer services budget, Dumfries and Galloway Council have given five rural communities three months to either take over ownership of their village hall or see the doors shut.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the committee in Dumfries, elected members pleaded for more time for these communities to organise management committees to run the facilities rather than have the “sword of Damocles” hanging over them.

Communities currently using Sorbie Village Hall, Drummore Community Hall, New Luce Hall, Portpatrick Hall and New Galloway Hall will be helped by the council officers to assume control of their hall, but, must prove to the council these facilities are both viable and sustainable by January 31 or face closure by February 28.

Stranraer Councillor Willie Scobie said: “These facilities are either being considered for transfer to a community management structure or closure. But the timescale of 31 January for transfer with the 28 February a closure date, should there be no agreement on transfer, is questionable, at the very least.

“I have asked for the Community Facilities Review report be presented to the next Wigtown Area Committee for its consideration.”

Mid Galloway Councillor Graham Nicol added: “Provided any management committee or other body planning to take over the hall are in meaningful negotiations with the council, and they have a viable business plan, then the January 31 deadline will be extended.

“Experience shows that halls than have already been taken over by their communities have a higher usage than before.”

Since the council announced radical community and customer services spending cutbacks in 2012, community facilities in Whauphill, Kirkcudbright and the Glenkens have been taken over and run by community management committees. In the Isle of Whithorn, the hall was taken over by the community and run be trustees.

Newton Stewart’s Community Centre, Creetown’s Waverley Hall, Bargrennan hall, Stoneykirk Hall, Dunragit Hall and the Dick’s Hill Community Centre well closed down with users found alternative accommodation by the council.

The Community and Customer Services Department is facing an overspend of £388,000 by the end of the financial year.