We agree that it is difficult for new groups to find affordable space, which is why we rent space at a discounted rate at WAC for community groups, many of whom say they wouldn’t be able to run anywhere else.
It is also true that many buildings are in need of repair. We know this from our own experience of raising £1.5 million to make WAC safe and fully accessible for the community.
We are completely in favour of a more equitable distribution of community resources, but simply slashing the services which are already on offer doesn’t make any sense and is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. WAC is entirely self-funded and costs the taxpayer nothing.
What makes WAC so effective is that we have been in this building for 50 years. During that time we have built up roots in the community, and a reputation which now brings over 30,000 people a year through our doors. Many of our users are digitally excluded or otherwise vulnerable and hear about us through word-of-mouth via their friends and peers. This transmission of information through their network is the only way we can reach the most vulnerable, such as people on the street, and the elderly and isolated.
Lambeth’s plan represents a centralisation and commoditisation of community services, but people don’t access these services the way you or I might simply go online and look for what we want. People in need know us and trust us, and that’s how we’re able to reach out to them. Community services need to be provided through a community, otherwise they don’t work.
We don’t feel that Lambeth council understand this fact. This would lead to hundreds of our most vulnerable users slipping through the net, as services are centralised and provided without a genuine presence in the community.