Friday, 15 December 2017

Youth centre considered site sale as losses mount

HENLEY Youth Centre is forecast to lose up to £20,000 a year.

HENLEY Youth Centre is forecast to lose up to £20,000 a year.

It has had to dip into its reserves to meet the £4,000-a-month cost of running the Deanfield Avenue centre.

Steve Curran, a youth worker for 34 years, will not have his contract renewed at the end of the year to save money.

The centre’s trustees have even considered selling the centre to meet the funding shortfall.

Treasurer James Pennington told the annual meeting of the Thamesfield Youth Association, which runs the centre, that the future was uncertain.

He said the centre was starting to feel the effects of Oxfordshire County Council’s decision to withdraw its £25,000-a-year grant in 2011.

Mr Pennington said: “We have reached a tipping point where there has to be change.

“Losing that grant was a real death blow but we have done very well and we have had to look at ways to keep fighting. Our running costs are £4,000 a month with forecast funding arrears of £15,000 to £20,000 a year, which is not sustainable.

“While we are getting people through the door we are not getting the income commitment.”

Mr Pennington described the building as a “very good asset” and that selling it had been considered so the centre could be run more cheaply elsewhere.

He said: “We are not afraid at looking at other options, such as moving. We are looking at all possibilities. We have got to fill the gap. We could sell the site but that wouldn’t get us very far.”

He said that while it was relatively easy to secure funding for capital projects it was more difficult to fund ongoing costs.

Clive Wilkinson, chairman of the trustees, said it was a continual challenge to raise sufficient funds and find volunteers to run the centre on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights.

He said: “In spite of all the hard work with fund-raising, we had to use money from our reserves this month for the first time.

“As trustees, we firmly believe we can continue to open on a regular basis but do need to operate in a different way than we have been doing because we just can’t afford it.

“Sadly, this has meant that Steve Curran will no longer be working with us from January 1.

“Between now and January 1 we will be working with other groups, such as the Oxfordshire Association for Young People and Nomad, to ensure that we can continue to run our youth centre evenings on a regular basis.”

Mr Curran has worked at the Henley centre on and off for 19 years.

Mr Wilkinson also reported the loss of volunteers Lisa and Werner DeJong who have moved from Henley and thanked them for their hard work and support. He said the centre had never been used as much as it was now but added: “We have got to look at it in a different way. As a group of trustees, we are very optimistic at making that happen.”

Oliver Makower, who chairs the association, said: “We have been going for getting on 70 years. During the war years, it was an entirely voluntary service and we are being forced back into the same situation and it is not impossible.

“I think there has never been a time when kids need a place like this more than they do today. It is a matter of trying to match the resources to the need that is there. That can be done. I am hopeful that I will see a revival of this place. It is in good nick and doing a good job and I think that is what really counts.”

Mr Wilkinson said: “We have had continued and much-needed financial support from Henley Town Council, the Henley Educational Charity, the Ward Consultancy, Rotary, Henley Lions, Henley Concert Singers, Henley Youth Festival, Lloyds Bank and Phyllis Court Club and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them, along with everyone else, for their support.

“There are lots of groups in the town that have been generous in coming down and supporting the centre and showing that it does matter.”

Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak paid tribute to the trustees, saying: “Thank you from the people of Henley for keeping the centre going. The important thing is that you are committed and working very hard and keeping this as a facility for Henley.”

Meanwhile, the HOT (Henley-on-Thames) Frog café, which is based at the centre, has had its contract with The Henley College’s Pathways group extended for a year until October 2014. It is open five days a week from 8.30am to 3.30pm.

The Flying Frog junior youth club for one- to 12-year-olds was launched earlier this year and will continue to be run on Tuesdays from 4pm to 5.30pm by the Nomad youth and community group. A second club has now been launched at the YMCA in Lawson Road.

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