Monday, May 24, 2010

It was a good week for me last week. Mainly this is due to the decision of the Education, Children and Families Committee to keep open the Longstone Community Centre and the Gorgie War Memorial Hall. The Sighthill Community Centre is still to be relocated in the , now empty Westburn Primary school sight. Personally I would rather have kept the primary school and I opposed its closure by this Lib. Dem. / SNP Council but I suppose you can't win them all. Although this relocation is bad news at least there is a site in the plans for the development of North Sighthill for a replacement and we will just have to make sure one actually gets built!
The 'Gorgie Mem' was the best campaign I think I have ever seen. This shows the strength of feeling in the local community and I was proud to support them in any way I could. There is no question in my mind that the campaign caused a reversal of the proposals to close the Mem and Longstone. People power at its best. This Lib. Dem. \ SNP coalition in the Council started of the consultation telling local people that the decision to save this money had already been taken and that secret talks had taken place to decide which of the 45 community centres across the city should be put forward for closure. Strangely enough 4 out of the 6 were in the South West of the city and people in this area should never forget that. It was impossible to criticise the deliberations of the group set up to decide on where to make the cuts as the meetings were held in secret with even opposition local Councillors being excluded. Local people were told if they wanted to save a centre from closure they would have to say which ones should be closed instead! This was a shocking travesty of a consultation and the fact that it arrived at a reasonable outcome for Longstone and the Gorgie Mem is down to the strength of their campaigns and not the Lib. Dem. and SNPs ability to listen. It also has to be added that the Labour Group would not have closed any community centres as we protected these front line services and took the cuts from elsewhere.
This is the second time I have had to fight to save the Gorgie Mem. from this Lib. Dem. \SNP Council, they tried to close it a couple of years ago as part of the Schools Rationalisation Program ( which thankfully fell apart). Hopefully the Administration at the Council have at last seen that this is a War Memorial , sold to the Council for a nominal sum (£70) in the 1930s for safe keeping, and also a vibrant community centre proving a unique friendly atmosphere and irreplaceable safe green space. It is disgraceful that it was ever put forward for closure in the first place.
See below thank you statement by the Chair of the Management Committee of the Gorgie Mem..

Keep the Hall Open Campaign – A Success!!!!!

Dear Hall users and supporters,

I am writing to tell you about the success of our campaign to save the Gorgie War Memorial Hall. After months of campaigning since we were first informed of the proposal for closure we are delighted that at Edinburgh Council’s Education, Children and Families Committee meeting last week they voted to keep the Hall open.

Our campaign emphasised the strength of public support for the Hall as well as the strength of public feeling that a war memorial should be protected. We also emphasised the potential that resides in the Hall as a community space. Consequently, as well as voting to keep the Hall open the Committee also encouraged us to do what we can to make the war memorial a more significant feature of the Hall; to develop the potential of the Hall to appeal to more people in the community; and to build up the strength of our management committee.

We are happy to take on these challenges because, having gathered substantial support for our campaign from the community, we feel that the people of Gorgie value the Hall and would be happy to invest further in it. Perhaps you feel that you have some ideas to offer the management committee about how the Hall could be run, or about how the Hall could be developed? If you do then please don’t hesitate to let us know on the phone number above or by giving Dave or Wendy a message.

In order to realise our potential one of the most important things we need to do is to build up the strength of our management committee. The current volunteers have done a fantastic job, and I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to their hard work over the past months in particular. However, we are always looking for volunteers from our supporters and user groups to serve on the management committee. I would be delighted to welcome you if you feel you have an hour or so to give each month to help keep the Hall open, keep it economical and to help make it a versatile space for the local people to use. Now that we have saved the Hall please consider serving on the management committee to help ensure that we are not faced with closure again in the future.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in the campaign to save the Hall. As a management committee we were overcome by the enthusiasm of everyone’s support. Hall users, supporters and members of the community wrote to the Council, signed the petition, came to the public meeting, and offered us words of support and kindness. Thank you.

I hope you will continue to enjoy the Gorgie War Memorial Hall. As a community centre it is an important community space and as a war memorial it is an important community marker.

Best wishes,

James Aitken

Chair, Gorgie War Memorial Hall management committee