A BID to plough nearly £1m into saving community centres across part of the region was thrown out yesterday, as volunteers struggled to come to terms with “devastating”
council closure plans.
Opposition Liberal Democrats tried to persuade Durham County Council to pledge an extra £850,000 to save the dozens of facilities under threat, with Lib Dem leader Nigel Martin saying the proposals would help communities in difficult times.
However, the bid was roundly defeated at County Hall, leaving community leaders considering the future of their local facility.
Next Wednesday, the council’s cabinet will be asked to confirm the closure of 14 community centres, hand over or close another 16 and stop investing in a further 38.
Thirty-six are set to share in £2.15m-worth of upgrades, while refurbishment projects are already planned for another 16.
David Smith, treasurer at Witton-le-Wear community centre – which faces losing funding, said: “It would be a big miss if it had to close.
“We have virtually no services left in the village.
“We’ve got no shops, we get a post office van one hour a week, there’s no bus service and we’ve even lost our telephone from the phone box.”
John Ollett, chairman of Thornley community centre – which had been earmarked for council cash last summer but is now set to lose out, said: “There are a lot of people in the village up in arms about this.
“It’s very important to Thornley and the whole of the county. It (closure) would have a devastating impact.”
Council chiefs say the county’s community centres need £11.25m of repairs over the next decade.
However, both Mr Smith and Mr Ollett said the council had neglected their facilities and then over-estimated repair costs.
Some areas would suffer more than others under the cuts.
Pittington would lose funding for its village hall and Southbrook House. Four facilities in Crook would be permanently closed.
The Labour-led council faces nearly £190m of cuts between 2010 and 2017. Bosses hope community groups will take over many of the threatened centres. However, closures could happen within months.