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Council chiefs agree to hand over Bourne End Day Centre
A POPULAR village day centre will be saved from closure after council chiefs agreed to hand it over to a community group.
Buckinghamshire County Council [BCC] will offer The Friends of Bourne End Centre a ten-year lease of the Wakeman Road facility at a peppercorn rent.
The council preferred The Friends bid to run the centre to that of a rival group, called Tardis SOS, saying the former would make use of a proven and established third party provider and be "more affordable to users".
The Friends group wants to bring in care provider Fremantle Trust to run the centre, whereas Tardis SOS had aimed to retain the current Red Cross staff and employ them directly.
The council has compromised on the lease offer, as the bidders were previously told they would have to buy the building after just two years.
It now says The Friends should be given the option to buy the centre at ‘community-use value’ after ten years, with a significant reduction expected on the commercial value of about £500,000.
The day centre has been threatened with closure since 2010 when the council announced plans to close and sell the facility, along with about 20 others in the county.
This caused outrage in Bourne End, as villagers had raised £45,000 in the 1980s to help build the centre, which provides day care to the elderly.
Princes Risborough Day Centre has already been handed over to a community group and BCC cabinet member Patricia Birchley said she was delighted Bourne End would now be given the same opportunity.
She said the council would support The Friends with their business plan, while they form a Community Interest Company with the aim of taking over full responsibility by January.
Jim Penfold, who is chairman of The Friends of Bourne End Day Centre, as well as the village Residents’ Association, said: "The day care centre is at the heart of the Bourne End community, together with the library and community centre.
"We have always felt that to lose the centre would be tragic, so we are delighted that we, as representatives of the community, together with the professional expertise of the Fremantle Trust have been given the opportunity to continue to support our local residents."
Meanwhile, the council has been criticised by a lead member of Tardis SOS, the group which lost the bidding process.
Peter Willingham believes the report to cabinet members was "misleading and incomplete" in terms of its representation of the Tardis SOS bid.
He also argued BCC had withdrawn an offer to hand over the building at ‘fit-for-purpose’ standards, saying this means The Friends will now be lumbered with repair and maintenance costs of about £150,000.
Mr Willingham added the cabinet report made no mention of the fact villagers had raised more than half the funds to build the centre.
Council spokesman Helen Fincher said the 10-year lease offer was recognition of the community’s fundraising efforts in the 1980s, while it is offered at a peppercorn rent to take repair and maintenance costs into account.
Jim Penfold, chairman of The Friends group, said the council had never offered to restore the Wakeman Road building to ‘fit-for-purpose’ standards.
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