£10,000 despite not owning the centre

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Causeway Coast and Glens Council have agreed to continue to fund the Edward Street Social Centre for the next six months - despite NOT owning the property.

During last Tuesday’s Leisure and Development meeting, Committee members heard that further investigations had revealed that the Evergreen Club still own the building which is held in trust by Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA).

Julie Welsh, Head of Community and Culture explained that the Evergreen Club could dispose of the asset, on the agreement of NICVA, and on the basis that the proceeds are used for the purpose that the facility was built ie activities for older people.

She continued: “NICVA has no financial interest in the facility and their role is to act as ‘guardian or trustees’. Since Council does not own the building it has no powers to carry out any work on the building, including maintenance or upgrade.”

However it was revealed that a Building Engineering Condition Report on the Social Centre, commissioned by estate services, had stated that there was no immediate risk to life from normal use of the building, however, the electrical infrastructure was very poor and needed some immediate remedial work carried out, at roughly £13,500.

Mrs Welsh explained that a meeting had been held in April with Council officers, the Evergreen Club and NICVA to explore a range of options on how to move forward and a follow up meeting was arranged for May 31.

She added: “Clarity is currently being sought in relation to the liabilities of Council and the Evergreen Club in relation to insurance and operating costs. It is therefore recommended that for an interim period of six months Council agrees to maintain the existing arrangements in relation to operation of the facility.”

Following councillors questions, the Director of Leisure and Development Richard Baker explained that members of the Evergreen Club had been “shocked and worried” to discover they still owned the premises and were “under a lot of pressure”.

He stated that costs of running the centre including maintenance, operation costs like insurance, rates and utilities was £20,000 per year.

In response councillor Maura Hickey said it is a “good idea to give Evergreen Club six months” to consider their options stating: “It will cost Council £10,000 but it will be worthwhile to cover that.”

She then proposed to accept the recommendation.

Councillor Ian Stevenson seconded the proposal however added that he “did not like the recommendation but was happy to go ahead with it.” He added: “We should be taking the facility back.”

Councillor Darryl Wilson highlighted that Council “couldn’t take back something that was never there’s in the first place”.