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Consulting on the review of council-owned community buildings

The council is carrying out a consultation exercise as part of a review of council-owned community buildings.

In December 2015, the Mayor and Cabinet members considered a paper on the council’s community buildings portfolio. That report established a number of principles in relation to how the council would manage and charge for its community buildings while also asking officers to undertake a review of all council-owned community buildings, which is now nearing completion. That review has highlighted the need to develop a more consistent approach in order to meet the council’s legal obligations and the requirements of the Best Value Action Plan.

A more consistent approach will also help ensure that voluntary, community and residents groups in Tower Hamlets have access to high quality, secure and safe places from which they can operate and deliver services. The council currently has a large portfolio of community buildings which are used by community groups, but many of these buildings are in poor condition or under-occupied, and they are unevenly spread across the borough.

There are a number of proposals arising from the review. The first is to ensure that all tenants, in buildings for their sole use, are on a formal lease. This gives security to the tenant and provides assurance to the council about the use and users of the buildings and clearly sets out the respective responsibilities of both the tenant and the council.

The second key proposal is the establishment of community hubs. Community hubs will aim to provide accessible, high quality, versatile, multi-use spaces for use by voluntary and community groups throughout the week on a shared basis that can be hired on a short-term or long-term basis.

In addition, the council intends to establish a scheme to assist voluntary and community groups meet some of the costs of occupying council-owned community buildings. However, certain types of organisations will not be eligible for a rent reduction. An example of where this might apply is with nurseries where the council needs to ensure it does not give an unfair and uncompetitive advantage to one organisation over another providing the same or similar services. In such cases the council would expect the rental costs to be included in the business plan for the organisation.

The next step in this review is to consult with building occupiers, building users, community and voluntary groups, and the wider public. The outcome of the review and this consultation exercise will be reported to the Mayor at the Cabinet meeting in October 2016 and implemented thereafter. The Mayor’s decision at the Cabinet meeting will guide the council’s approach to how community buildings are managed in the years to come.

The public consultation will seek views on three areas:

  • the council’s proposals to create community hubs;
  • the council’s approach to managing the community buildings portfolio; and
  • the council’s proposal to establish a scheme to assist voluntary and community groups meet some of the costs of occupying council-owned community buildings.

This review into the use of community buildings has been the most comprehensive review of its kind the council has ever carried out. While the review has allowed the council to gather information in respect of the building occupiers, building users, the activities in the buildings, and the condition of the building, it is also important to ensure that the views of voluntary and community groups, service users, and the wider public are considered before any final decisions are made. This is because the council’s decisions have far- and wide-ranging – and sometimes unintended – consequences. Before taking such decisions, it is important to seek the view of those who might be impacted by it.

There are two stages to this review. The first is this public consultation exercise and the report to the Mayor in October 2016. The second stage will be individual discussions with existing tenants as part of the implementation of the proposals.

The section below sets out details of consultation events, a survey, as well as a ‘frequently asked questions’ document that should help you better understand the council’s proposals. There are also contact details at the bottom of this page.

This public consultation starts on 20 August 2016 and ends on 18 September 2016. The views will be incorporated into a report to the Mayor in October 2016. Following this report, the implementation stage will commence in mid-October 2016.

Consultation events

Tower Hamlets Council for Voluntary Services (THCVS) Premises Forum

The Tower Hamlets Council for Voluntary Services (THCVS) is an independent umbrella body that represents voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise organisations in Tower Hamlets. THCVS run a regular Premises Forum for community and voluntary sector groups, to discuss premises related issues. This consultation exercise will be discussed at their next Premises Forum meeting on 24 August 2016, at 2pm.

If you represent a voluntary or community group in Tower Hamlets and would like to come along to the forum, you can book a space online.

Drop-in sessions

Council staff will be holding a consultation drop-in event at the Whitechapel Idea Store from 2pm to 4pm on Thursday, 1 September. There is no need to book; just stop by and complete a survey in order to provide your views on the council’s proposals. Please note that the council staff running these sessions will not be able to answer questions on individual buildings or users.

Two further consultation drop-in events have been organised for Bow Idea Store from 2pm to 4pm on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 and the Ground Floor Reception area of the Town Hall, Mulberry Place from 9am to 12noon on Thursday 8 September 2016.

Survey

We are keen to hear your views as residents of the borough, as well as the views of community and voluntary groups and service users. It would be helpful to the council if you could complete this survey. You can also download a Word version of the survey and email your response to asset.management@towerhamlets.gov.uk or download a PDF version that you can post to the address below. There is an opportunity at the end of the survey to submit any additional comments you think may be useful or important to mention.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

This ‘frequently asked questions’ (FAQs) document sets out some of the questions we think you might have. More importantly, it also sets out the council’s answer to those questions. The document should provide you with a detailed view of what the council is proposing to do; particularly on the three areas the council wants to seek your views on:

  • the council’s proposals to create community hubs;
  • the council’s approach to managing the community buildings portfolio; and
  • the council’s proposal to establish a scheme to assist voluntary and community groups meet some of the costs of occupying council-owned community buildings.

How to get involved

There are many ways you can have your say:

  1. You can complete the survey;
  2. You can email us at asset.management@towerhamlets.gov.uk;
  3. You can, if you represent a voluntary of community group, attend the THCVS Premises Forum;
  4. You can also attend a public drop-in session;
  5. You can write to us at:
    Community Buildings Consultation
    Asset Management
    London Borough of Tower Hamlets
    5 Clove Crescent
    London
    E14 2BG

If the survey questions or the FAQs are unclear, or if you have issues understanding what we have set out, please contact us by email and we will explain more clearly what we are trying to say.

Full list of council-owned community buildings

This document lists all of the council-owned buildings that form part of the community buildings portfolio: List of council-owned community buildings

The list is slightly different to the one that was attached to the December 2015 Cabinet report for a number of reasons. Some buildings are used for direct service delivery by the council; some buildings are used for direct service delivery by a commissioned provider; others were due to be demolished or an alternative use had already been identified and implemented (a use other than occupation by a community group).