Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Marsh Residents Rally To Save Community Centre

A heartfelt appeal for support for the Marsh Community Cente from a young user
The future of the popular Marsh Community Centre is under threat - to the dismay of its users and supporters across the city.

Responding to cuts in central government funding, Lancaster City Council's Cabinet has proposed ending its £13,650 funding of the Centre, which pays for a wide range of activity sessions through the week for children aged between four and 13.

The unwelcome cut in the Centre's funding, is just one of a number of cost-saving measures proposed to save £2.8 million annually over the next few years, as part of action plan to tackle a £5.6million funding gap by 2020 imposed by the Tory government as it pursues a policy that is crippling public services across the country.

As we reported last week, if approved by Full Council the plans also include cuts to CCTV provision, an end to Lancaster's role in the Youth Games, reviews of arts funding and the continued support of the Cottage and Maritime Museum, will see huge changes to the services delivered by the city council.

Children enjoying one of the many sessions at the Centre which face being cut if Council funding is withdrawn
"The Community Centre is available for use by anyone in the Lancaster area," Centre Manager and social worker Rebecca Joy Novell told virtual-lancaster, "but it's predominantly used by the residents of Marsh Estate, a very deprived area of the city which struggles with widespread heroin use, substance addiction, long-term unemployment, anti-social behaviour and mental health problems."

Each one of the sessions facing loss of funding is used by ten to 30 young people, a service that is much valued and appreciated by the local community and, often, a welcome refuge for many young people facing difficulties in their lives. 

"A large number of the young people we work with have Social Services involvement due to family problems," says Rebecca. "This Centre is a lifeline and a home to them. 

"When we recently asked the 8-13 group what they think of when they think of the Centre, the most common response was 'a safe place to go'.

Cutting the funding would have a long term impact on the Centre, its users and the wider community that, it seems, government clearly doesn't appreciate as it continues to reduce public funding of council services.

"If this £13,650 is taken from us, we will no longer be able to run the above sessions, says Rebecca, and, worse yet, it could bring an end to the Centre itself despite fund raising from local schools and support from local businesses.

"A lot of what we do in these sessions is prevention work to stop more acute problems in their older years, such as drug use, offending and mental health problems," Rebecca explains. "We currently work with a 14-year-old who was arrested for dealing heroin as well as a young man who was shot in the head at the age of 12 due to gang involvement. 

"The level of need here is much greater than I suspect a lot of Lancaster residents realize. The police have told us that if these sessions close, the level of anti-social behaviour and crime will sky-rocket.

"The £13,650 is a very small amount that goes a very long way. As a centre, we were already struggling financially and if this money is taken, I cannot see how the centre can survive past April."

The community centre is clearly valued locally, and now needs everyone’s support to keep going. 

• The Council's Cabinet will present its draft budget for 2016/17 onwards for initial consideration by Council on Wednesday 3rd February 2016. At that meeting, it will also seek a decision to increase City Council tax by 1.99%, in line with previous years.

Final approval for the budget will go to Full Council on Wednesday 2nd March 2016.

• View more information on Cabinet’s proposed budget

• Find out more about the work of the Marsh Community Centre on their official site: http://www.mcccc.org.uk | Find the Centre on Facebook

• You can make donations to support the work of the Marsh Community Centre here on JustGiving: https://www.justgiving.com/marshcommunitycentre

• Lancaster's People Cafe is running a pop up cafe at the Marsh Community Centre on Satuiday 30th January from 12 noon to 3.00pm. All proceeds from this cafe event will go to Marsh Community Centre. More details here

Contact Points

• Lobby your own City councillor

• Lobby Lancaster's MP Cat Smith: 01524 566 551 or 01253 490 440 email: cat@catsmith.co.uk | Twitter @CatSmithMP 

• Lobby Morecambe MP David Morris: 01524 841 225 email: david.morris.mp@parliament.uk Twitter @Davidmpmorris

• Want to get a quick response from Lancaster City Council? Tweet and include the twitter handle: @LancasterCC

• The Council's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lancastercc

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