Volunteers ensure Falkirk commmunity centre’s survival after funding cut

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When change comes along it can be a good thing or a bad thing – depending on how people react to that change.

The moment Falkirk Council decided to withdraw financial support for local community centres it forced people to take on the responsibility for these facilities themselves or risk losing them for good.

Westfield Park Centre in The Bog area of Falkirk is one such facility and the people who are taking over its management have fully embraced the opportunity presented to them by the local authority’s budgetary decision.

Betty Cook, assistant secretary, said: “We are still in the process of taking the centre from the council, who are no longer supporting community halls. Our hope is to keep this community centre going for the people and this is why we need to work on bringing in more activities than we do just now.

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Everything we currently do will still keep going and, for the future, it’s a case of looking at what the needs of the community are and then putting them in place.”

The centre has been around since the late 1980s and now offers changing rooms for local football teams, a computer room for those who need to brush up on their digital skills or log on to claim their Universal Credit, an office suite, meeting room and cafe area.

As well as Betty, the voluntary team at Westfield Park includes chairperson Tracey Cole, vice chairperson Janet Strathie, secretary Rochelle Black and treasurer Jim Cook.

The management committee is about to lease the hall from the council for the princely sum of £1, but this means members will now be responsible for its running, upkeep and maintenace – the buck stops with them.

“We are a charity at the moment,” said Betty. “But we’re changing our constitution and are now trustees, changing our charitable status.”

The committee hope to use this new status to gain financial support from sources like the Big Lottery Fund – with the chance to secure £150,000 over three years. They are also raising funds on their own through various events – a recent comedy night at the centre raised an impressive £350.

While Falkirk Council may have withdrawn its financial support, it is still helping the committee with advice when it comes to administrative duties like funding applications.

Betty said: “The important part is we get our worker in the office and a dedicated cleaner – those two jobs are important. We are also looking to bring in younger people – my husband and I are getting older now.”

At the moment the centre is a community hub which offers a base to a number of local clubs, groups and organisations.

There are arts and crafts with the Share A Craft group, a cooking group, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes for ethnic minorities, a youth club, a creche, the local football team The Bog Bairns, zumba, taekwondo, kick boxing and a baby buggy walking group.

The Thornwood Residents Association also use Westfield Park as a venue for their monthly meetings.

“We have to look at what the needs of the community are,” said Betty. “We do training on Universal Credit and job clubs and our computer suite is open for people to drop in and log on if they need to access a computer.

“We held an open day to bring people in and let them see what we are doing at the moment and ask them what they would like us to do in the future.”

The committee has also carried out an online survey on Westfield Park’s Facebook page in an effort to find out what people want from the centre.

Call (01324) 508520 or visit Westfield Park Community Project on Facebook for more information.