In a series of events more like something from an episode of Yes Minister, it appears that a group of officials at the City of Edinburgh council are determined to run down Duncan Place Resource centre, in order to bolster a case for closure.
Although officials apparently insist there is no ‘second list’ of community centres earmarked for closure, to follow those already agreed, there is still no sign of work starting on the upgraded entrance and lift facility at the Community Centre. And this, despite the fact that planning permission has been given, and that councillors have expressly approved the budget spend to support the upgrade in the last financial year.
Delaying capital investment in the centre is one thing, but perhaps more worryingly, we heard at the last meeting of Leith Links Community Council, how a significant tenant of the centre, Stevenson College, is to be relocated to the Fort Communtiy Wing. This administrative sleight of hand will have the effect of increasing the running costs of the centre – at least on paper.
Meanwhile, staff have reportedly been asked to seek alternative accomodation for the other services undertaken at the centre. Clearly, someone, somewhere aims to close the Duncan Place Resource centre – even though local councillor Rob Munn, insists neither he, nor any other councillor has been informed of the plan, and that the budget for the lift upgrade is still in place for this financial year.
Indeed, at the last community council meeting he reiterated that the centre had cross party support, that all three local councillors are determined to keep Duncan Place open, and that he was “very, very angry with the way that both the user group, and the local councillors had been treated by officials” on this issue.
At the community council meeting local residents voiced concern that without the Duncan Place Resource centre the range and quality of the youth services in the area would suffer. For example, Pulse of the Place, the incredibly successful youth Samba band based on Duncan Place Resource Centre, was highlighted in the last inspection report as an example of best practice in the North Edinburgh area – and if you can spare five minutes, you can easily see why if you watch the documentary they made about their work below.
If only all youth clubs got the kids they work with out into the city – performing in high profile places like the Festival Cavalcade. It will come as no surprise that the Duncan Place Resource Centre User Group members are upset that even though they’re successful, and they’ve got local support, the Children and Families department want to pull the plug on the only place they can practice without annoying the neighbours! They said that “there has been no openness whatsover,” from the Senior Management Team at Children and Families.
We understand that senior management in the council see the best route to cost saving as imposing a ‘hub and satellite’ model on the local community education services – and unfortunately for the users of Duncan Place – the hub that they want to keep is the community centre in the Kirkgate. However, the level of savings obtained by mothballing buildings (in the present property market the chances are the building would end up disused, like the old Leith Academy Building on Duke Street, nearby) compared to the level of savings that could be obtained by culling senior management has not gone unnoticed locally.
This is because the six community centres that have already been closed have only saved £120,000 per year from the Children and Families revenue budget. In comparison, Greener Leith has been sent this independent review by KPMG that identified scope for the removal of 190 management jobs across the council, with a potential saving of £10million per year. Even if you agree with the council senior management team – that achieving all £10million of those savings would be very difficult in practice – it’s perhaps easy to understand why some members of the local users group have come to the conclusion that if it is possible to save a unique community facility by making one, or at most two, back office managers redundant – then cutting back office staff rather than mothballing buildings is a more desirable route to take.
This point is particularly pertinent to Duncan Place Resource Centre as in order to close the building, a new Gym hall would need to be constructed in Leith Primary School – as the school Gym hall is currently in the adjacent Duncan Place Resource centre. So the capital investment that would be saved by mothballing the centre and not building the lift, would need to be spent next door anyway.
Leith Links Community Council have sent a letter to senior council officials seeking clarification on the future of Duncan Place Resouce Centre. However, if you are concerned about anything that you’ve read in this post then we reccomend that you email your local elected politicians (perhaps after the General Election!) using www.writetothem.com to let them know your concerns.