We received 51 responses to the consultation on the Stockwell Centre. There was a range of respondents, including local residents, users of the centre (past and present), local councillors, the local MP, tenants and residents groups and a number of other interested groups.
As part of the consultation there were concerns raised that some residents had not received the letter that we originally sent on 23 November as notification of the start of the consultation. In response to this we agreed to extend the consultation from the original end date of 20 December 2016 to 6 January 2017.
There was a significant amount of support for the centre and for the services and support offered to local people. Many people requested that the centre stay open and highlighted its importance to the community. These views will influence our process for selecting an organisation to take on the lease for the building, and we are currently working with local councillors to agree their involvement in our process to lease the building and ensure that we find the right organisation for the centre and the community.
A number of people expressed concerns that we would be selling or demolishing the centre and we have responded in those cases to explain that this is not the case.
Several respondents queried that the centre is often busy and therefore wanted to know why there was a shortfall in covering our costs. Although the centre is often busy at peak times (evenings and weekends) this is not always the case during off peak times and when we look at the overall capacity of the building current use is equivalent to only 36% of that capacity.
There were a number of questions/queries raised by a number of respondents across the consultation on all centres and we have summarised these here.
Q: Hyde reported a significant surplus at the end of the last financial year. Why can’t this be used to support the community centres?
A: We have a proud history of providing homes for those most vulnerable in society and our core purpose of providing much-needed homes in London and the South East remains as strong as ever. In the UK we are building only half the homes we need and Hyde has a responsibility to increase the number of homes we are building in order to help address this housing crisis. Last year we invested over 1.5 times our surplus in new homes, and in order to increase the number of homes we build we need to be able to invest more going forward.
Q: Hyde made promises when the community centre was transferred to them and you need to honour those promises.
A: In terms of our stock transfer commitments in relation to the community centres we have fully delivered what we promised. However in the years since these transfers the world has changed significantly and we have to adapt if we are to continue to meet our core purpose of providing homes and landlord related services. We continue to invest significantly in a range of services which support individuals and communities but in reviewing our activities we have concluded that we need to mitigate losses on community buildings.
Q: Please can you explain how you have come up with your figures for people using the centre?
A: We have looked at average use at our centres over the last few years. Where we have sign in sheets we have taken the averages across a year. We have also looked at the total capacity of the buildings (based on the total number of bookings we could accommodate) and then taken current use as a percentage of that overall capacity. We are aware that there is often more use during peak times (evenings and weekends) but we do have problems finding users who can hire the centres during off peak times.
Q: Have you considered other ways of increasing income?
A: We have always been proactive in encouraging bookings and in late 2014 we intensified our efforts to increase bookings and income across our centres with business plans and competitor analysis at all centres. A community centres website was published and the centres details were placed on several room and hall hire sites. We faced particular challenges associated with finding hirers for off-peak times (office hours) and sourcing users for whom multi-use spaces (i.e. not conference, not fitness, not co-working) is suitable. While income generation did increase slightly this was still well below the true operating costs to make the centres sustainable in the long run.
Q: Why do you no longer accept party bookings or bookings where alcohol is served at the community centres?
A: In 2016 we made a decision to stop accepting parties and events where alcohol is served across all our community centres. We understand that this has disappointed some residents, however the decision was taken to ensure that we minimised some of the problems we had encountered in relation to some of these bookings (for example, alcohol related issues, clean up and damage to property and staff safety).
Throughout the consultation, where respondents asked specific questions, and provided us with contact details, we have endeavoured to send a reply. However if you do not feel that you we have answered your question, or that the above information does not answer your question then please do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org