Victory over Lancashire County council centre hire charges plan

First published in News Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Chief reporter

CONTROVERSIAL charges for community and voluntary groups using county council premises are set to be reviewed following a rash of protests.

Opponents claimed there was a lack of consultation over proposals to introduce charges for clubs and community groups, when they were unveiled in September.

Now county council leader Coun Geoff Driver has announced an overhaul of the authority’s charging policy.

And until that work is completed, and fresh recommendations drawn up, centre users will be charged pre-September rates, it has been confirmed.

Coun Driver said: “The council has a huge number of buildings across the county and many of them are used by other organisations when our services aren’t using them.

“Unfortunately the current arrangements have evolved over many years without a clear policy and they don’t offer good value for money to the taxpayers who ultimately pay for the buildings to be maintained.

“We recognise that many organisations do things that support our aims and the policy was never intended to harm those organisations financially.

“Through this review, we will work with voluntary organisations to determine exactly what activities are taking place in our premises and how they contribute to our priorities.”

Clubs and groups which make a profit out of their activities will be expected to contribute towards the hire charges, it is expected.

Protesters were led by Chris Keene, of the Stoops and Hargher Clough Community Centre, in Burnley, who staged a lantern release against the original charging proposals.

Councillors in Burnley later approved a formal motion, opposing the move.

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