Letter to Mo Mowlam
UK Minister for Social Inclusion
A Case Study of how not to do community development
Exclusion of Community Groups in a Nottingham New Deal for Communities Policy Area
To explain to non-UK readers - Mo Mowlam is the UK Minister with responsibility for enforcing the British Government's policy against social exclusion. I wrote the letter to her because, in a recent edition of the magazine sold by people who are homeless, Big Issue, Mo Mowlam is quoted as promoting a new British government policy called "New Deal for Communities" . This New Deal is supposed to be about promoting "joined up policy thinking" to solve the interrelated problems in a number of neighbourhoods in the UK especially selected for regeneration support. In her article Mo Mowlam calls on people in deprived to form community groups.
The text and articles that follow were sent to Mo Mowlam via the government's social exclusion unit web site and e mail addresses. The affair to which it refers concerns the sale of a Nottingham City council owned community centre in a New Deal for Communities area. I am on the fledgling management of this centre and now the city council's Leisure and Community Services Department want to sell it.
Over the last few years a number of unpaid volunteers from local community and voluntary groups had come together a management committee for this centre and had a written agreement with the city council's Leisure Services and Community Development Department to do this. Now the city council are wanting to sell the centre to an organisation called the Afro-Caribbean and Asian Forum. The Forum is an organisation that was set up as a consultative voice of ethnic minorities in Nottingham which was quite influential a number of years ago. In case readers get the impression that our opposition to this sale is racially motivated it is important to say that the centre is already multi-cultural and about one half of the centre users and groups are of Afro-Caribbean descent. There are also people using the centre of South Asian descent as well as people, like myself, from the white ethnic majority. All the regular centre users are opposed to the sale and quite a few people are now denying the Forum is representative of them.
The letters and the articles reflect the issues that have been thrown up by what has happened and go to the heart of what community development is about. They discuss how acts of policy by local government can undermine community development and local involvement demonstrate that, even in an area, designated for a so called "New Deal", exactly the old methods of operating prevail. Mo Mowlam is called upon to find a solution not just for this problem but for similar ones - so far I have no answer....
14th March 2000
Dear Mo Mowlam,
Over the last few years I have acquired some knowledge and experience of trying to get community activities and volunteering going in Eastern Europe where for decades the state promoted a certain cynical brand of "voluntary activity". For 6 months I worked at the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation in East Germany trying to show how neighbourhood development work is done. In these countries the results of the earlier state promotion of voluntary activity has been a lasting unwillingness of people to get involved in something that they came to see as a cynical abuse of them. This has been a serious problem in re-creating civil society in Eastern Europe. Now the UK government, as well as organisations like the World Bank, are becoming interested in "creating social capital" at the local level as part of development and regeneration strategies. This has been reflected in the voluntary sector with organisations like the Charities Aid Foundation publishing collections of essays like "Building Civil Society: Current Initiatives in Voluntary Action" (CAF 1998). I fear, however, the results of this promotion in this country will turn out much the same as in Eastern Europe.
The problem is that although promoting voluntary action may look very fine from the central corridors of power, as administered at a local level by local government officials things can seem very different. Indeed what I want to demonstrate here and in the attached papers is that, as in Eastern Europe, abusive and exploitative relationships between local officials and volunteers and community groups can build up in which, far from encouraging citizen participation, there is the danger of creating a deeply cynical attitude among local people and a yet further decline in the belief in local democracy (voting in local elections in the UK has among the lowest turn outs in Europe)
Yesterday I went, as an unpaid volunteer among several other unpaid volunteers, to a meeting of the Hyson Green Community Association which, until recently, thought it was developing a management for a Nottingham City council owned community centre. The Leisure and Community Development Department's "Project Officer" who has been assigned to us also turned up. Part of the agenda was to discuss the issues for us that have arisen out of the way we have had our community centre sold under our feet, without any real consultation, and are now having to rush around trying to manage and administer the change process. The city council has, in fact, given no real thought about the consequences for our association (made up of the regular groups using the community centre). This was even though most of us have given up a great deal of our time for free to building up a management for the centre and had a written agreement with the council which had led us to believe we would take over the management of the centre.
In fact the most likely effect is that our association, which had been a developing local multi-cultural network will be broken up - as the interest of some groups after the sale of our centre are more with moving and the interests of others are with staying under the new management which we will be forced to accept - while yet others are likely to move out of the (New Deal) area altogether. The experience of our meeting yesterday was chilling - in the last few weeks there has been the expectation from officials that we will work harder and harder voluntarily, for nothing, to help these highly paid individuals, clarify and negotiate the issues of an orderly transition in which the resource we had been using will be taken away from us and sold to another organisation. The Project Officer most familiar words are "it would be helpful to me if you could...." . It feels as if we exist, in fact, as the unpaid administrative and managerial skivvies to look after buildings for Nottingham City Council's senior managers in the Leisure and Community services. However, when it is more convenient for them to sell the building we have brought back into use as a functional centre to a shell organisation in their crony circle then out we go .(A sale in which the city coucil would get the receipts of the purchaser's 30 and 37% underspends on two Health Authority funded programmes. This would be getting money for one thing and using in on another as it seems that it is these underspends that are to be used to buy our building).
In the papers that I attach you can check out the consequences for us in all of this. I think what is happening to us has more than local relevance - it is a case study of how what sound like fine ideals in Whitehall turn into bitter realpolitik, manipulation and string pulling at the local level. As an alternative the city officials would like (some of us) to look after another surplus building for them - a building where the issues are different, and the workload on us as volunteers would be greater, where we have no sense of ownership and which is a not suitable for some groups. (Until such time as they want to move us out of that no doubt....)
Some while ago I read an article about a lecture by Professor Anthony Giddens, director of the London School of Economics, and proponent of the Third Way, who said that the voluntary sector must embrace social entrepreneurship, they must become go-getting, that the government was demanding the modernisation of the voluntary sector in terms of how funding was provided and time was used. "It seems to me that this effort bargain is at the front line of what we all should struggling for" said Professor Giddens. In return for this "New Effort Bargain" with the voluntary sector the government was going to offer us more influence in policy. I have to say I am very doubtful that this will be worth much - after all in our service level agreement with the local government in Nottingham we were promised that we would be consulted or informed about major changes and that never really happened . However, if the government is to really live up to this "effort bargain promise" then kindly do me the courtesy of reading these papers to see what really happens to groups at the local level when they get involved with the local government in voluntary action.
Is this your "effort bargain" in practice - more and more effort in return for less and less. (Unless you count the condescending desk top published cheap certificates for voluntary effort and citizenship, the gold stars for being good with teacher, that the Nottingham City Council Leisure Services Department rewards volunteers with).
I dare say your intentions are well meaning but what I have tried to show here and in the papers that follow is what happens when people get involved in voluntary action in a way which involves a dependence on the buildings, grant aid and support of the local state. This dependence makes us exploitable - if we break off relations with the local state we lose out on the rooms, the grant aid and the resources - but meanwhile we are forced to work harder and harder as these papers show. Please try to find a way for this not to happen otherwise your New Deal for Communities will be a manipulative sham!
Social Inclusion, Community Development Practice
and the Sale of the Hyson Green Community Centre
Note: This is a personal statement and analysis and should not necessarily be taken to be the collective point of view of the Hyson Green Community Association. Council officials or politicians that would like to challenge the ideas or assumptions in this discussion text are welcome to e mail me and I will send out their rejoinders. My e mail address is Brian@bdavey.freeserve.co.uk
If you find this useful please e mail it on - but be prepared to e mail any rejoinders I forward...
The sale of the Hyson Green Community Centre in the New Deal for Communities area in Nottingham is not just about the sale of a building - it is about a set of principles in community development work. The sale has been repeatedly justified by the Leisure and Community Development Department and its director, Michael Williams, by his department's need to raise money to spend on community development and on othe community buildings city wide. In his justification the Hyson Green Community Association are the unlucky people who just happened to have a building whose price and specifications met what the Afro-Caribbean and Asian Forum that want to buy the building was looking for. Our local interests had to be sacrificed for the greater Nottingham wide interest. The city has a surplus of buildings inherited from the county at reorganisation. If these buildings are sold now the county would ask for the money - so an existing building was put up for sale instead - it was assumed that the existing groups using the one building could either stay or move over. Simple - what could be more sensible and rational than that......
One of the central ideas in community work is that things on the ground at neighbourhood level often look different from things in the offices of officials. Unless local people get heard in these offices then what seem like sensible and rational decisions for officials generate disruption and chaos at the local level. In this case, to put in briefly, the other building does not have the same features, managing it involves quite a lot of unclarified unknowns because it is larger, its running costs are unclear because who its other users would be and what their needs would be remain unclear, because it is unsuitable for local children etc. On the other hand staying as tenants at the old building involves potential clashes over room availability on the upper floors, could remove flexibility for room availability at evenings and weekends.Above all it would remove the managerial role from user groups. This was a role they had working towards with their voluntary effort for a long time, with, as they had been led to believe because of their service level agreement, the support of the department.
In short the thinking of the senior officials as they negotiated the sale with the Forum did not include working out the implications for the existing users. When the Association started fighting for a period of consultation they were fighting not just for the abstract dignity of being heard but because they realised that unless these other things were explored first the result would be disruption and chaos for them.
That is the whole rationale for community work. Yet this exploratory inclusion of the local stakeholders was not even considered by senior officials. Local people heard through a rumour and got a letter confirming the intention to sell from Assistant Director Gurmel Singh-Kandola in September. The letter was apologetic that we had heard through a leak about what Singh-Kandola described as "private" exploratory discussions. The work of the department in relation to our centre is clearly understood as being in the ownership of senior officials and politicians. It was not our business to know anything until the decision was taken - originally it was hoped to have the whole matter done and dusted for the November community development committee.
This is social exclusion in action. It is a living example of how it works.
If the Leisure and Community Development Department's senior officials and politicians do not understand this then what do they understand by community development? Clearly, on a day to day basis officials like Mr Williams and Mr Singh-Kandola, who are making their careers in local government, are having to balance financial books, they are having to deal with stocks of buildings, they are working out things with their political masters with a city wide agenda. Within the hours of an ordinary working week they have to hold together a big managerial jig saw of pieces made up of expenditure flows and budgets, buildings and the groups using them that are probably, most of the time, just names and to which they most of the time feel no personal connection whatsoever. However the life of a manager is one in which things can go wrong because there is never enough information and situations and people are unpredictable. In community development one element of unpredictability is the groups that you work with, the groups that use the buildings. One way in which you can reduce this unpredictability is to work with groups and individuals that you know, that have a track record and, better still, know exactly how you work - particularly where they have a track record of not rocking the boat and themselves not getting into difficulties! (When a funded community group gets into difficulties questions might get asked of officials who gave them the money).
From this point of view the Forum probably looked an ideal "partner" to whom to sell the Hyson Green Community Centre. In the 12 January Community Development Committee report the Forum is given grant aid and described as a very "valuable" organisation. No wonder! It had been around for 18 years and its members are fully aware of how councils work as they have sat on (mainly county) committees for donkeys years. Although its anti-racist rhetoric is impeccable most of its active members are now elderly and no firebrands! On the Nottingham chess board of community development it was time to move the Forum from NG5 to NG7 and give it £60,000 development support. This would be a good strategic move also as the New Deal for Communities was setting up in that area - with £1,500,000 over the next few years for "combating racism and improving community relations". Would not the Forum be ideal piece of the jig saw here! It was clearly time to have some "private exploratory discussions"....
The trouble is that this tendency of senior people in power structures to manage processes by their "well connectedness" in a way which shuts other people out is exactly the same problem the community development departments are there to deal with. It is what the New Deal for Communities is supposed to be about dealing with.(Or if that is not the case the New Deal is also a fraud, another exercise in we-know-what's-best-for-you). In the theory of social inclusion/social exclusion "capacity building" by local communities is about creating the management skills and connectedness at the local level to enable people in neighbourhoods to develop the projects they want and to get their stake recognised in places like the Leisure and Community Development Department. This is understood by some officials in some parts of the Nottingham local authorities and in some parts of the health service locally but not in others. I would mention some alliances around health and environment, local economic development and social economy and some green partnership activities. Here one can find excellent examples of officials working not only with grass roots organisations but also being able to inclusively draw these organisations together, creating the space for new groups to get involved as well, to evolve holistic city wide strategies to feed into the policy process. Unfortunately this style of working seems not to be understood at all in the Leisure and Community Development Department, nor, it seems, by its politicians.
This bears upon Michael William's "city wide investment strategies". There have been times when the issues have been explained as bowing to the accountants in the Leisure and Community Development Department. When Howard Morris, the deputy chair of the Leisure Services Committee, came to talk to us in December about our demand for a proper consultation process he said that he felt that sometimes the department could force things too far at the behest of the accountants. The impression here is that the department is not people driven but finance driven. Instead of the resources of the department being prioritised to facilitate community organisations develop among the most deprived communities, such community organisations in deprived areas must instead make way for the money making needs of the department to be spent on already well resourced organisations that are "part of the club". There is a curious inversion here which is explainable by the fact that officials and politicians see community development as being in their private ownership - as only they and their friends have the "city wide overview".
Within this city wide overview senior officials and politicians take decisions about the allocation of financial resources and then, of course, at the bottom of the priority list there is no money left. When financial pressures are cited it is often forgotten that things for which there is said to be no money have been judged less important than things which will still get money. Thus, for example, there was enough money to give the Afro-Caribbean and Asian Forum £60,000 over three years even though they already had £90,000 in the bank unspent! Thus what the words "financial pressure" really means is that "you are not important enough to our agenda" - it is a statement of the power relationships. It is one of the indicators of social exclusion....
When Howard Morris came to see us in early December he said he had dreaded having nothing to offer us. Indeed! It is a very sad thing when the deputy chair of a community development department comes to meet a multicultural group struggling to bring into existence a management for a centre and has only the message that they are going to be brushed aside to make way for things "the big people" have decided are more important. He had enough sense to realise that and undertook to try to get a delay in the sale for a proper consideration of the issues. Then discovered he did not have the power to deliver. He had indeed come to see us, presumably to be able to pacify us, even though he had no power at all to offer anything at all.
The chess board move from NG5 to NG7 from senior officials, presumably approved by Sue Scott, now had an unstoppable momentum and "community development" meant that we had to fit in with what our betters wanted.
1st March 2000
The Sale of the Hyson Green Community Centre
will be a loss of resources for Children and Young People
Paper for the Nottingham City Council Land Sub Committee
The impact of the sale of the Hyson Green Community on services for children and young people locally, and its impact in turn on parents in the area, has not been adequately considered so far by the city council in their rush to sell. In this paper it is argued that this clashes with the New Deal for Communities goals in the fields of health, education and youth provision. The Centre and Community Association provides an important child and youth resource in the area in the following ways: (1) There are groups for toddlers in the centre - actually in the area that the purchaser of the building wants to use as office space; (2) the centre is used a great deal out of normal office hours for children's parties and events; (3) as part of its service level agreement local people in the community association working with the community worker run girls groups at the centre (out of school hours); (4) the garden is an important resource for the children, both as a resource for the gardening club and as a free play area where children are off the street; (5) children can get to the centre on foot unsupervised because it is not on a major road; (6) both the karate club and the kung fu club cater for local young people in a way that helps them manage and express safely the often aggressive feelings that arise at adolescence when they are striving to become more independent and cope with more challenging roles. At the same time they are engaging in healthy exercise.
The sale of the Centre will most certainly seriously damage these facilities and services: (1) the Forum wants their offices in the area that has been used for mothers and toddlers; (2) There has so far been no written commitment to keep the centre open out of normal hours and to let it be used, as at present, for children - something which would impose extra costs on the Forum; (3) the intention of developing the turning the building into a conference centre would bring in extra traffic making St Paul's avenue more unsafe for children, meaning more parked cars and almost certainly leading to wanting the garden, at some point, as a locked off-street parking area - which will effectively take it away from local children; (4) The Kung Fu and Karate Clubs are the groups most seriously effected by issues of room availability - in the case of the Karate group they will lose the upstairs area they use at the Centre. Meanwhile the area the Karate Group would find most suitable at the TRY building is the very same area that the Refugee Forum, the city councils intended rent paying tenants for that other building, themselves want (5) The whole centre is available for a school for the children of the Goose Fair businesses - this would presumably also be lost.
The loss of services to local (and other) children and young people would be damaging to their physical and psychological health and is not consistent with the Health or Education goals of the New Deal for Communities as laid out in the Draft Document of February 2000. This document, for example, says the New Deal will promoting "pre-school learning" and "out of school learning and diversionary activities". There is talk about trying to get to grips with antisocial behaviour by turning aggression into constructive activities. It is aimed to reduce traffic accidents in the area. In relation to child health there is an explicit goal of safe play and safe play areas for young children - which includes reducing the child accident rate and an increase in the take up of out of hours schools activities.
It is important to their emotional development and long run psychological health, that children should be able to find safe footpath connection to children their own age to play with. (Christopher Alexander et al, A Pattern Language, Oxford University Press, 1977) - in our area they can do this in the Community Centre Garden. According to a Policy Studies Institute paper produced in 1994 ("Children, Transport and the Quality of Life", Policy Studies Institute No. 716, Mayer Hillman (ed.) ) the need for child friendly environments in cities is now a very pressing issue. The PSI argues that this includes a need for places for children to develop their own lives, as they grow older, away from the too close supervision and interference of adults. A particularly important issue is in relation to the growing impact of traffic on children's lives. It is well know that asthma which is the result of traffic generated air pollution is now a serious problem for children. In addition recent research has shown that there has been a dramatic decline in the freedom of children (and their parents) due to rising traffic volumes. 1971 80% of seven and eight year olds went to school on their own but now only 9% are allowed to do so, over 80% of schoolchildren own a bicycle but only 2% cycle to school. Yet the alternative building offered for the Community Associations use by the Leisure and Community Services Department is across a major road - in other words out of access for young children going there on their own. The PSI argue that children's physical development is being restricted by traffic as children are denied the opportunity to routinely maintain their health by getting around on foot or cycle on their own - "with the result that the great majority do not reach the recommended threshold of heart rate in medical tests of fitness - and will therefore be more susceptible to serious illness in later years". In our case the physical exercise that the Karate and Kung Fu group provide as a partial substitute is now threatened. Furthermore, according to the PSI , "children get insufficient freedom from adult supervision allowing them to develop coping skills, self esteem, a sense of identity and the capacity to take responsibility, and to use their minds creatively - all basic elements to their mental health." Parental lifestyles are also constrained when this happens leading to stressed and tense adult-child relationships. These problems will be exacerbated in our area by this sale.
It is likely that the uses that the Afro-Caribbean and Asian Forum have for the community centre building and adjoining garden would seriously clash with the needs of local young people. It is already clear that some rooms will not now be available for young people's activities and that room availability out of normal hours would impose extra financial costs on the Forum. The alternatives being offered by the Leisure Services Department are inferior and unsuitable for children and this sale would seriously set back the New Deal for Communities goals in the fields of education, youth work and health in relation to young people. So far there have been no written commitments on these issues from the Forum or from the community development department. They remain important issues that should have been clarified in a proper consultation. The Land Sub Committee should now reject the sale as it is clearly not in the public interest.
Member of the Hyson Green Community Centre Committee (writing in a personal capacity - as I will not have time to get this document formally endorsed before the 14th March Committee)
The TRY Building as an alternative for the Hyson Green Community Association?
The purpose of this final paper is to demonstrate that, three months after the city council Leisure Services Department issued its original commttee papers about the sale of the Hyson Green Community Centre, there still has not been an adequate consideration of the issues from the point of view of the local stakeholders - the community association representing the network of groups that were actually using the Hyson Green Centre. It demonstrates ever so clearly an almost universal feature found in the relationships between professionals and local people. On close examination we find that professionals and managers claim expertise and an ability to take decisions - but their decisions are taken in offices and in social and political-economic circles which are geographically separated from the issues. In consequence the local level consequences are usually not thought through. Academics have recognised this for some time. It is why the case for community development has arisen in the first place. Here is a quote from 1975 for example about planners - "The planner tends to judge the neighbourhood on the basis of its physical characteristics. His ability to evaluate its other characteristics is limited to what he can observe on a visit to an area, while residents tend to consider social factors such as neighbourliness in addition to physical characteristics." ( Lansing J. B. and Marans R.W. Evaluation of Neighbourhood Quality, quoted in in Environmental Interaction, edited by Cate, Stringer et al. Surrey University Press, 1975 p. 176.).
In our case it is not planners but the very department that should understand these matters - the community development department of Nottingham City Council itself (which is part of the Leisure and Community Services Department).
The original committee report to the Community Development Committee in January 2000 said that the Hyson Green Community Association has been offered the alternative use of the former Team Resources for Youth -TRY - building by the city council instead of the current use of the building on St Paul's Avenue. This paper looks at what this means and what implications it might have for the groups that make up the community association.
In the existing arrangement the community association is made up of groups who were collectively moving towards managing the building on St Paul's Avenue. In other words the Association was, and is, doing the following tasks on a voluntary basis with the aid of a £2,000 grant from the city:
(a)Taking and administering room bookings including receiving payment and returning payments to the city council.
(b) Sharing in an informal supervisory support role to the caretaker - who is however employed by the city council.
(c) Holding the keys for the building, opening up the building and staffing the office at times when the caretaker is not available.
(d) Maintaining and developing the office equipment and informal training in its use for groups using the centre.
(e) Acting as point of contact with the city council and answering inquiries.
(f) In addition to the activities of the individual groups the association was making initiatives and taking decisions in regard to joint activities (e.g. Fund raising events, benefits etc) for the benefit of the building and its groups and local people.
(g) Providing an on-the-spot supervision for the maintenance and improvement of the building and its services (heat, light, water etc)
(h) Designing, planting and development of the garden, supervision of children using the centre and its garden.
(i) Decorating and improving rooms in the building.
(j) Liaising with long term tenants who were permanently hiring rooms in the building.
(k) Developing long term arrangements plans for the development of the centre, development of training in management roles etc..
The crucial question for those groups moving over into the TRY building is whether they would continue to play a role and be prepared to take over tasks like these again at the other building given that:
(i) People who have taken on these roles will not now be "next door".
(ii) No indentification with the TRY building, no "sense of ownership" by the community association exists for that building.
(iii) If their main interest is the children's activities these will probably have stay at St Paul's Avenue as it does not have a garden and is across a major road.
(iv) The issues in managing and administering the TRY building, as well as its finances and economics, are not the same as those of running St Pauls Terrace.(see below)
(v) A different mix of groups may develop there - including groups from the Youth Club. It is unclear whether these will have the same group dynamic from the point of view of developing a management committee.
(vi) It is unclear what managerial and administrative resources would be available from the city council and/or other agencies (like those in the New Deal for Communities process) to help in running the TRY building.
In order to decide on their options on the basis of adequate information the community association needs answers from the city council to a number of questions namely:
1. If a number of groups move over to the TRY building which of the tasks listed above that are performed by volunteers at St Paul's Avenue would they be expected to attempt to do at the TRY building?
2. What additional resources could the city council make available to manage and administer that bigger building?
The city council currently puts in the assistance of a three and a half hour peripatetic administration worker and £2,000 grant aid. This is not at all adequate to do a fraction of the things needed to manage the existing building.
The question for our network of groups is not whether they want to move over or not so much as: Are they prepared to continue to take a regular commitment to help with administering the opening and closing? Will they be prepared to take responsibility for security and health and safety, building maintenance and services? Who would administer room bookings and the receipts from them? Who would do clerical and office work, mailings, correspondence etc and maintain the office equipment?
If no one is now willing to take these things on the option is only really viable if this administration and management work is provided by someone else - so is the city council willing or able to get the resources for it?
In deciding whether they are prepared to take on the roles at a new building groups will want to know a number of other things:
3. What is the city council prepared to do to allow the groups to develop a secure "sense of ownership" of the space in the new building? Are they able to while they are still in dispute with the county over that building?
Having been pushed out of the other building groups will now suspect the city and feel that they can be pushed out again. To help them develop a sense of security they will also need to know:
4. What is the minimum time that groups making a go of developing the TRY building will have a guaranteed undisturbed use of that building in a legally binding contract?
The TRY building will be on the tram route at the corner of the Forest Recreation Ground. At some time this may become prime value property. At this point in the future will the groups who have re-invested their time and efforts in building up that centre be pushed out again "because the priority of raising money for investment in community development in a city-wide strategy overrides the interests of any local group."? We have it from our Project Officer that the City will offer the building on a peppercorn rent for 5 years. A cynical but not unrealistic way of seeing this is that it is finely judged offer. It took us about 5 years to build up the use of the existing building from a state of dereliction before it is to be taken away from us. It is also relevant to note that to run the building we will need a service level agreement with grant aid attached. Whereas the building might be on a 5 year lease the SLA will presumably have 3 months notice. Therefore, in practice, Leisure Services could get us out in three months.
Other important issues that our association and groups will need to know include:
5. Who would be the other permanent tenants of the TRY building bringing in a permanent revenue. Which rooms do they want? Will they want the same rooms that the groups currently at St Paul's are interested in?
There is also a question that we will have to decide among ourselves - will there be any conflicts in our own ranks about room allocation? At the time of writing it is already clear that that Karate group - whose rooms will be taken away at the Hyson Green Centre, because the Forum would use the upper story for offices, will also be clashing with the Refugee Forum at the TRY building - they could end up getting nowhere. The Kung Fu Group's needs are rather different. They currently meet in the basement and use a floor area they put a lot of money into. If they stay, then, just as the childrens activities that need to stay because of the gardens this will add to the already predictable break up the association. Some groups have an interest in going, some in staying and some are now saying they may move out of the area altogether We have said for weeks that this will break up our association - now it is even clearer.
A further relevant question before we take on responsibilities leading to management would be:
6. What are the economics of the TRY building?
As we said in a paper for the Finance and Performance Sub Committee of the Policy and Resources Committee, the Director of DOLACS, has done no business plan for the use of the TRY building so its management is a completely unknown quantity. The current "emerging management" of St Paul's terrace have some sense of how much it costs to run the existing building. The step by step gradual development of the existing centre means we now know what its real costs are from experience. We will have no idea how much it will cost to run the TRY building, except that it will presumably cost a lot more because it is bigger. It would therefore be taking over a financial unknown were we to take on its management. We would have no way of knowing what an appropriate level of grant aid would be to run it.
The TRY building has a very different size with implications for heating, lighting, insurance etc and it will have a different group of tenants and occupiers.Any group taking over that building would want to be sure that the grant aid was adequate. Yet we would be stepping into a financial unknown.
7. What would be our level of grant aid at the TRY building? Who would carry liability for any overshoot of expenditure over income?
We were currently on course to become a full community association managing our own building with our own finances - but this would have been on the basis of several years experience of running that building and gradually building up our role step by step as well as getting to know each other as a group of people. In this case we do not really know what would be involved in taking over a completely new building, how much it would cost, how we would get on with the different rooms, the new partners, the new finances. It would be a leap in the dark.
These are questions that we need answers for if we are to take over the TRY building. These are the sort of things the community development department should have looked into with us before it's managers decided to "offer us the TRY building". The "management" of the community development department did not think about issues of practicality and logistics and did not think through these things with us before they took their policy decisions. Now they are sending us pushy letters setting us impossible deadlines to decide on things we have not got the information to take rational decisions upon - things that will also take a lot more unpaid voluntary work for us to sort out so that the arrangements can be done for DOLACS convenience while our group may probably end up being split up.
The Land Sub Committee is requested to refer this matter back to the Community Development Sub Committee as they did not have an adequate exploratory consulation on the issues that would have allowed all stakeholders to think through the implications of this sale. The result of going ahead with this sale will be an unnacceptable level of uncertainty, an unacceptable burden of unpaid work, an unnacceptable level of responsibility on people working as unpaid voluntary partners with the city council, as well as the real possibility that the community association will break up.
Brian Davey (The Hyson Green Committee agreed to submit an earlier version of this paper to DOLACS for comment - this version of the paper is slightly amended and updated )