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Marsh Community Centre celebrates funding reprieve

Chris Satori


Fears that Marsh Community Centre would lose its City Council funding grant were relieved by a last minute turnaround at last Wednesday's annual budget meeting. It resulted in a £14,000 grant being made, following on from last year's grant of £13,000.

It turns out that the whole problem boiled down to some missing paperwork.

Residents Rallied to Support Centre

When the Centre discovered that the grant it has received annually for some years no longer featured in the Council's last January's draft budget, Marsh residents were quick to leap to its support (See our January report "Marsh Residents Rally To Save Community Centre").

As Centre Manager and social worker Rebecca Joy Novell told us then,

"The Community Centre is available for use by anyone in the Lancaster area, 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 that faced 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.

Missing Invoice

So, what nearly went wrong? Green Cllr Jon Barry, who is Chair of the Marsh Community Centre, told Virtual-Lancaster today:

"We are glad that the centre has been able to receive continued funding for its youth activities. It has received them ever since the Single Regeneration Budget finished in around 2003 and so we were naturally upset that they were to be cut."

"The City Council is currently in a strong financial position with £3m of unallocated reserves. This year, it added to these reserves by £165k and has put £500,000 in a new economic development fund. Thus, we think that £14,000 spent on youth provision on the Marsh is an excellent use of the Council's money."

"Previously, the City Council has given the grant quarterly. However, this year the system was changed without the centre being informed - the new system was that the Council expected the centre to invoice for the money. Anyway, now that the situation has been resolved, things will run smoothly next year. What is not in doubt is the excellent use of this money in providing activities."

Finding the money

Karen Leytham, Labour's cabinet member for housing and environmental health, said:

"We care deeply about young people in our district and we know the Marsh Community Centre offers valuable activities and support.

"So we were pleased to be able to find the money to support the community centre for another year, even though the request for funding came in to us at the last minute.

"The funding agreed at last year's budget meeting had been for one year only and given the huge cuts we are facing from the Tory Government we had encouraged the centre to look at alternative sources of funding looking further ahead.

"We were unaware of any issues. The centre only invoiced the council for the money it had agreed for the 2016/17 financial year earlier this week and by putting in the request for funding for 2017/18 so late and out of the blue there was clearly a risk to the groups.

"Fortunately, it's something we've been able to look at and find the money for.  But things are only going to get more difficult in terms of Government cuts, which is why we have again asked for the centre to explore other avenues of funding for future years and to let us know how they are using the money we have agreed to give them."

The Marsh Community Centre offers a wide range of regular activities and one-off events that are popular with the local residents - and also bring in a healthy mix of people from throughout the City.  

If you are interested in discussing sponsorship opportunities, please contact the centre on 01524 843300.