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Fight is on to save Penhill community hub in Swindon
A COMMUNITY hub in Penhill could be forced to close because of a lack of cash – but residents are hoping to save it.
The John Moulton Hall, in Penhill Drive, is used for activities including a Monday café, a lunch club, dance and fitness classes and also hosts educational groups.
But its future is uncertain as Community And Learning In Penhill, a charitable limited company which has rented and run the centre for six years, has been unable to secure new funding to continue paying the 16 staff and core costs beyond September.
Among those affected are centre manager Mick O’Brien and community worker Ingrid Bernathova, taken on in 2010, whose posts have been funded for three years with part of an £800,000 Government Fairshare grant set aside to support community projects in Penhill. The funding runs out this month.
CLIP will hold a members-only extraordinary AGM at the hall at 7pm on Monday to discuss a motion to wind-up the company and hand the keys and management of the hall back to Swindon Council.
CLIP could continue as a charity but not run the hall.
The Adver understands the council is committed to finding a new community group to run it and a public meeting is planned for April 6 to find out what people want to do with the building, which also houses Penhill Library.
In a letter to members, CLIP secretary Marilyn Beale said: “We have been unable to attract new funding to keep staff employed or for core costs to manage John Moulton Hall and the learning centre. We have also been unable to attract more trustees and therefore we will be unable to keep the John Moulton Hall and the learning centre open.
“We have received funding from another stream to keep the community worker until the end of June.
“We feel that the only responsible way forward is to call you to a members’ meeting in March to discuss this fully and to answer any questions you may have.”
Mrs Beale declined to comment further until after the meeting.
Bill Gulliver, the secretary of the Monday café, said the group had already made inquiries about alternative venues, but said even if the motion were passed on Monday, he believed there was enough community will in Penhill to stop the hall from closing.
He said: “We have got other places we can let go but we don’t want John Moulton Hall to go. It’s centrally-based and we sincerely don’t want it to happen.
“John Moulton was one of the best community workers in Penhill and I’m sure he would be turning in his grave if he knew it could close.”
Penhill Carnival organiser Glynis Hales said despite the centre’s future being up in the air, the carnival would be going ahead on August 24.
“The mayor will be opening it and we have the support of the council,” she said. A Swindon Council spokesman said: “We are working with local community groups to look at ways of keeping John Moulton Hall open and we will be exploring a range of options.
“A meeting will also be held on April 6 with residents and users of the hall to determine the future of the building.”