South Lanarkshire Council Leader is 'hugely encouraged' by the number of interested parties who want to keep halls open

​Dozens of local groups have come forward to say they want to work with the council to keep open community halls.
Council Leader Jo FaganCouncil Leader Jo Fagan
Council Leader Jo Fagan

​Council Leader Joe Fagan said he was “hugely encouraged” by the initial response after more than £1 million was put on the table to support community takeovers of facilities from which current operator South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture (SLLC) will have to withdraw its services.

The positive development comes as further details are revealed of how the Community Fightback Fund and Future Libraries Fund will operate to keep those facilities open.

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Councillor Fagan said: “Throughout our extensive budget consultations both the council and SLLC were very clear that a combination of a lack of fair funding from government and hugely rising costs meant some very difficult decisions simply could not be avoided. That included SLLC’s plan to rationalise the halls it can afford to operate.

“That is why, even in the midst of our own financial challenges, my administration provided funds which will ensure no facilities will now close at the end of March. They will instead stay open while we work with those local groups who come forward with plans to give them a real future as a community-run asset.

“I’m hugely encouraged by the numbers who have already expressed an interest, and we will do all we can to help them develop their proposals. The aim is simple - that as many as possible of these halls will stay open for many years to come, providing spaces where our communities can come together.”

As has already been reported, the £1 million Community Fightback Fund (CFF) will keep all the community halls open for at least a further month, to the end of April. Further funding to keep them open beyond that point will be triggered if a Community Asset Transfer (CAT) looks a realistic option.

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Some of the impacted facilities are in areas where Renewable Energy Funds (REF) are available, from contributions from windfarms and other sources. In those cases, it is anticipated that after that first month of CFF funding, interested groups will apply for up to an initial £20,000 REF grant. Thereafter, they can apply for further REF funding covering up to three years of revenue costs.

Local groups in areas where there is no access to REF money will be able to apply for additional CFF funds along the same principles. .

It is anticipated that many will need to progress in stages, such as through an initial lease arrangement to allow community management to be put in place before a full CAT can be agreed.

In a small number of areas, it is recognised that there is limited capacity for a CAT at this time, and these will need additional support. This includes Clydesdale East, and particularly Carstairs Junction Hall.

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The seven libraries which are affected by SLLC rationalisation will be kept open for three months using CFF money, while options are taken forward to reprovision some of their current activities in alternative local venues. The separate £150,000 Future Libraries Fund will assist those efforts.

Any group wishing to explore an interest in a community asset transfer should email the council on: [email protected]