Cash lifeline for Marsh community centre

The Marsh Community Centre in Lancaster.
The Marsh Community Centre in Lancaster.

A Lancaster community centre was given a one-year reprieve last night after councillors agreed to amend budget plans.

Marsh community centre bosses had previously been told that funding would be axed after the current financial year.

But at Wednesday evening’s full council meeting, where councillors were discussing the 2017/18 budget proposals, Labour members agreed to amend their plans to include a further year’s funding of £14,000.

This followed Green party members making a request as part of their alternative budget proposals.

Green leader Coun Jon Barry had said that without the funding, the centre would not close, but it would not be able to run youth groups such as for four to seven-year-olds, 8-11 and 12+ years.

The centre won a national Guardian award earlier this year for being one of the best community centres in the country.

After the meeting, Karen Leytham, Labour’s cabinet member for housing and environmental health, said: “We care deeply about young people in our district and we know the Marsh community centre offers valuable activities and support.

“So we were pleased to be able to find the money to support the community centre for another year, even though the request for funding came in to us at the last minute.

“The funding agreed at last year’s budget meeting had been for one year only and given the huge cuts we are facing from the Tory Government we had encouraged the centre to look at alternative sources of funding looking further ahead.

“We were unaware of any issues. The centre only invoiced the council for the money it had agreed for the 2016/17 financial year earlier this week and by putting in the request for funding for 2017/18 so late and out of the blue there was clearly a risk to the groups.

“Fortunately, it’s something we’ve been able to look at and find the money for. But things are only going to get more difficult in terms of Government cuts, which is why we have again asked for the centre to explore other avenues of funding for future years and to let us know how they are using the money we have agreed to give them.”

Marsh community centre manager Rebecca Joy Novell, who is currently on maternity leave, said she was delighted with the change of heart.

“We are really happy to get the money and excited to develop the programme for the next year. We will see where we can go with it.

“It really matters to the kids who use the centre. We cannot provide the youth work without that funding. For the kids we work with, to have the centre to go to every week means so much to them and to lose that would be heartbreaking for them.

“I found it really frustrating because it felt quite personal to me. Everyone needs to work more closely together to save these places instead of being at each other’s throats.”