The impact of the pandemic, on top of the Council’s challenging financial position, mean that some of its public buildings have not reopened as it is no longer viable to run Council services from them.
As part of the Future Council work to respond to the challenges, Cabinet agreed in October and November 2020 that a number of Council buildings would remain closed.
Since then, Council teams have been exploring interest from community groups to take over the running of the buildings, to give them a sustainable future, maintain valued public services and access a wider range of funding opportunities.
The Council has received expressions of interest from a range of community groups to run seven of its buildings.
At the next Cabinet meeting, Councillors will decide whether to give the go ahead for the groups and Council teams to work together to develop full business cases for potential community asset transfers.
Councillor Jane Scullion, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategy, said: “Not reopening some of our public buildings was a tough but necessary decision given the significant financial pressures that we are facing and changes in the way people are accessing services.
“We are proud of the fantastic contribution of Calderdale’s voluntary and community sector in supporting local people and delivering important services. Just as community groups have been crucial to life before and during the pandemic, they play a key role in our Inclusive Economic Recovery Plan to rebuild the borough and help achieve our Vision2024 for Calderdale.
“It is very encouraging to see the community groups’ commitment to the borough shining through their expressions of interest to take over responsibility for some of our buildings. We look forward to discussing their high-quality ideas to give the buildings a sustainable future.”
The Council has received expressions of interest for the following buildings:
Heptonstall Museum. Calder Civic Trust and Friends of Heptonstall Museum Working Group are proposing to continue running a museum in the building, with potential spaces for community use.
Mytholmroyd Library. Royd Regeneration is looking to maintain library services in the building, with increased access to computers and digital services and space for local groups to meet.
Ripponden Library. Ripponden Parish Council is considering the potential to keep the library facilities going and also use the space for Council meetings and contact with residents.
Shelf Village Hall and Library. Shelf Village Hall Community Association is committed to providing a library service, as well as opportunities to increase the use of the building by local groups and businesses and provide an events space.
Skircoat Library. Skircoat Community Hub proposes to increase community use of the library facilities and offer additional services such as refreshments, out-of-hours opening and a welcoming community space for hire.
Councillor Jenny Lynn, Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, added: “Communities have been really passionate about the buildings that have been offered for asset transfer and have come together to submit some really exciting proposals.
“We are keen to keep valued public services running wherever possible and it’s great to see the ideas coming through from local groups, which provide opportunities for community hubs where people can work together to support each other and encourage learning and discovery.”
If Cabinet approval is given to progress the expressions of interest to the full business case stage, and if the business cases are accepted, the terms will be agreed with the groups and leases will start to be negotiated in early 2022.
Expressions of interest were also received for Southowram and Stainland Libraries; however, officers are advising that these are not progressed as they do not consider that they meet the requirements for a community asset transfer.
If Cabinet Members agree, these buildings are being recommended for disposal as they are not viable for Council services.
The Council also reached out to local communities for expressions of interest for Greetland and Hipperholme Libraries, but did not receive any.
In line with the Cabinet decision in November 2020, steps are now being taken to dispose of these buildings.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet meeting will take place on Monday July 5.