Tower Hamlets Council has opened its first community hub in Whitechapel offering community groups low cost space to use.
The borough has around 2,000 voluntary and community groups which provide support to many of our residents including those who are vulnerable.
The new site in Christian Street has two large multi-purpose spaces for 80 people each; meetings rooms, break out areas, kitchen facilities, secure storage, free Wi-Fi and multimedia equipment.
It is the first of several community hubs that are planned to be provided by the Council across the borough over the next 2 years. Others are planned to be provided in Bethnal Green (2), Wapping, Bromley by Bow and Limehouse as part of a wider roll out of community hub facilities.
The use of community buildings was part of a review by Tower Hamlets Council when John Biggs took over as Mayor. It looked into existing agreements with occupiers, the terms of occupation, the condition of buildings and the range of activities taking place in them.
The Council’s Cabinet paper report of November 2016* found that the 74 buildings that formed part of the estate were utilised for 1862.5 hours per week, only 35% of the available hours. The report found that :
∙ Some were in a poor condition
∙ There was no formal basis of occupation in all but a small number of cases leading to confusion as to the allocation of landlord and tenant responsibilities and no security of occupation for the tenant.
∙ Had not been properly maintained
∙ Had an inconsistent charging policy for use
*14.4 “The lack of a uniform system of charging for buildings means that some
groups are already paying community rent for their premises whilst others pay
nothing. This leads to significant inequality across the estate”.
The report recommended setting up a network of community hubs as a fairer way to allocate space to voluntary, community and charity groups. The use of hubs would be at an affordable rate, but high enough to be able to cover the costs of the buildings so they would be better looked after.
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said:
“The voluntary and community sector is an important part of the fabric of life in Tower Hamlets and plays a unique and crucial role in the delivery of services to residents of the borough.
“Under my mayoralty these crucial facilities will be allocated fairly to the whole community to facilitate community activity, neighbourliness and social action. It is part of our commitment to support residents to lead happier, healthier lives through greater access to cultural, community and leisure activity.”
Gemma Cossins, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Tower Hamlets Council for Voluntary Service said:
“Community Hubs offer a much fairer, more accessible way for organisations to bid for and utilise council owned public buildings in Tower Hamlets.
“These hubs offer the potential of a wide range of spaces, including kitchens, activity rooms and secure storage, making them useful resource for a wide range community organisations in Tower Hamlets. The hubs will provide meeting points for individual groups and the voluntary sector to reach out and support the community right across the Borough.”