Communites could lose vital venues

Druridge Bay Community Centre in Hadston.
Druridge Bay Community Centre in Hadston.

Rural communities in Northumberland could lose a vital part of their livelihood unless a better and more sustainable way is found to support the many volunteers who run community and village halls.

Although the 214-plus halls across Northumberland provide an essential hub for community activity, social support and crucial services, volunteer committee members are struggling with red tape, rising costs and the increasing needs of people who use them.

This warning comes from Community Action Northumberland and the Rural Community Action Network (RCAN) who together provide a support service for volunteers who own and manage community buildings on behalf of their community.

RCAN has launched a national campaign to highlight its support for those volunteers and to demonstrate the valuable role community halls play in people’s lives.

However, cuts to its own budgets and increasing demands for its services mean its work is under threat.

It is calling for Government, local authorities and other policy-makers to work together nationally and locally to decide how best to invest their reduced resources to help maintain the valuable support service RCAN provides.

Louise Currie, community initiatives officer for Community Action Northumberland, said: “Each community and village hall in Northumberland provides a vital venue so that a range of services and local activities can take place.

“Demand for the skills, experience and knowledge that we and our colleagues in the Rural Community Action Network can provide is increasing. By contrast, easily accessible community development support services are reducing.

“Often the facilities and activities are not provided by local authorities so it is left to volunteers to make sure they are available. Communities could lose facilities and activities if volunteers helping to run them are not properly supported.”