Harrow Council for Justice
a campaigning national organisation - promoting the principle of 'different but equal'

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Harrow Council community lettings: the 'review of council support through community premises and community lettings' before the Cabinet meeting on 19 Mar 2011 recommends that the council’s current community letting service ceases to enable direct bookings with schools for voluntary organisations seeking the school accommodation hire.

In view of the serious community concerns regarding the proposed lettings arrangements, the Harrow Council for Justice issued the following statement:

The 80% concession on hire charges over the years which is now only 50%, will be removed if direct booking is decided. This would hit the community user groups hardest as the grants to the voluntary community organisations, particularly the diversity-specific user groups, have been drastically cut.

We note that Harrow has now received the 3rd best financial settlement in London and the 23rd best in the whole country. Harrow also received £1 million more than that they expected overall, yet still they choose to cut the voluntary sector which has serious implications for the services to the community, especially to the diverse communities who have different but equally important cultural or language needs.

We appreciate that the recommendation is based on the views gleaned through some consultation, but we also understand the argument that the dynamics of scarce resources lead to rivalry amongst and conflicting views from different type of the organisations which responded to the council-developed ‘consultation’.

Therefore, the Harrow Council for Justice supports the concerns expressed by the voluntary community organisations regarding the serious implications of the recommendation generally and for the ‘ethnic minority’ communities particularly.

The Harrow Council’s own equalities impact assessment has identified a “potentially differential impact” on the ethnic minority communities as many of the community lettings user groups provide minority specific cultural and educational services, using the school accommodation.

If the recommendation is agreed, the school premises could be hired for community use out of school hours at a scale of charges set by the governing body and reviewed annually.  It would be entirely up to the schools to provide or not to provide a concessionary rate for non-profit-making activities of community groups.

Whilst the Harrow Council for Justice considers it helpful for the schools to manage their lettings, we are not in favour of the schools deciding and implementing their letting charges.

If the Harrow Council really believes in equalities, then the Cabinet must reject the recommendation and maintain the current concessionary letting rates for the community organisations, particularly those in the forefront of providing cultural and language based classes at the school premises.

   

Headlines

 

Latest:
As a result of our as well as others timely intervention, the report ‘review of council support through community premises and community lettings' before the Cabinet meeting on 19 Mar 2011, has now been withdrawn for re-evaluation.

This followed by a press statement by Dr Pravin Shah, legal and general secretary of Harrow Council for Justice:
http://www.harrowobserver.co.uk/west-london-news/local-harrow-news/2011/05/26/charities-force-council-rethink-116451-28769417/

 

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