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Concerns raised over the future of community centre in Princes Risborough
CONCERNS have been raised by a town mayor about the future of a community centre.
Cllr Alan Turner raised concerns at Princes Risborough's monthly meeting about the community centre in Stratton Road.
He said it provides a real wealth of activities for the community and is also a venue for things like blood donation and breast screenings.
He said: "We have something like 900 users a week. We provide an essential service to the community."
The centre receives business rate relief- 80 per cent of that is granted and the other 20 per cent is discretionary.
They had always received that extra 20 per cent from Wycombe District Council, but now the guidelines have changed, and WDC is awarding 10 per cent.
This means the trustees of the centre need to find around £500.
Cllr Turner said: "It is a bit of a blow and a kick in the teeth.
"Their excuse is we have our reserves too high."
He said they have around £30-£40,000 in reserves, but he said the cost of a replacement boiler is between £24,000 and £40,000, and a new one will be needed relatively soon.
He added: "It is a reasonable amount to cover what we need to face."
Cllr Turner said the trustees, of which he is one, are being punished because they are well managed.
He said: "The old trustees might resign in principle. That would be dreadful. I can't run that on my own."
Cllr Will Streule said: "It is tragic is the trustees are prepared to resign over the issue."
Spokesman for Wycombe District Council, Catherine Spalton, said: "Around 200 charitable and not-for profit community organisations based within the Wycombe district apply to us every year for discretionary business rates relief, to help partially or fully bridge the gap between any mandatory rate relief they receive on their total business rates bill.
"There is a set of criteria which local organisations have to meet in order to be awarded discretionary relief of any value. In this time of austerity, changes have been made to the criteria to ensure that financial help is provided appropriately and where organisations can demonstrate a financial need for our support.
"With only a limited pot of around £175,000 of tax payers’ money from which we can offer discretionary rate relief each year, we want to make sure that we can direct financial assistance to those organisations most in need of our help.
"Since April 2013, we have reduced the amount of discretionary rate relief that we offer to the community centre in Princes Risborough from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. This means that from a full charge for 2013/14 of £4827.75, the centre has been asked to pay £482.77.
"This reduction in discretionary relief wasn’t a “punishment”, as has been suggested, but as we are aware that the centre has reserves, we felt it was appropriate to reduce the amount of discretionary rate relief awarded so that this money could be redirected to other worthy, local organisations."
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