Elspeth Crocket

What price community?

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By Elspeth Crocket, Arts and Culture correspondent

We’re now well into the time of year when schools go back, holidays are over and people settle into their everyday routines.  Civic life resumes and clubs and interest groups start up again.

I’ll be off to two of my favourite groups, the Concord Community Cinema and the Lennox Heritage Society, which also meets in the Concord Centre.  This year, though, an axe hangs over them, just as it does over all groups who use community facilities in West Dunbartonshire.

The council is engaged in a consultation on the future of community facilities.  I attended the “consultation” in the Concord.  The organisation, I have to tell you, was bizarre (actually, I’m just being polite – it was atrocious).  Why, you might ask, was the “consultation” held in August, when the vast majority of user groups are on holiday?  I’m told that notice was only put on the council’s Facebook page the day before the consultation began.  A small group of people who happened to be in the Concord that day attended.  No senior member of the Leisure Trust was present to answer questions and listen to the variety of very sensible suggestions for the future use of the Concord. A bit of a slap in the face to the public, don’t you think?

We were informed that community facilities are making a “loss” of over £800,000 in West Dunbartonshire.  I, naively, didn’t realise that the provision of community facilities, which we all pay for through our council tax, is now viewed purely in financial terms.

Here’s the thing, though.  Cost and value are different concepts.  Cost can be measured in pounds; value is more difficult to quantify.  Community is the lifeblood of any town.  People can go out for something to eat in Dumbarton then go to a film show in the Concord, right in the heart of the town.  They can view new movies or classic oldies (or, on Wednesdays, musicals or the popular “A Wee Look Back”, showing archival material).  All of this for £2 a go, with tea and coffee provided by the Alternatives group.  How many older people would go up to the nearest multiplex in Clydebank on a cold winter’s night (and wait for a train home at creepy Singer station)?

This is only one example of the kind of groups which use our community facilities and is replicated across West Dunbartonshire.  Many of these are run by volunteers, who give freely of their time to enhance the lives of their fellow citizens.  You can’t quantify the value of that.

So, a gentle plea to the council.  When coming to your decisions, don’t just look at cost, look at human value.  It’s less tangible, but so much more important.

  • The Council update on the review is here: http://www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/media/4315401/community-facilites-review-update.pdf

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