Chairwoman of Eston community group tells of pride of in community centre's survival

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Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Stockton/Hartlepool)

A FORMER mayor has told of her pride at keeping a community centre going, despite it losing all of its public funding.

Councillor Olwyn Peters is chairwoman of Whale Hill Community Centre in Eston, Middlesbrough, which lost all council contributions in April last year after receiving £260,000 from Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council in the six years up to 2012.

Coun Peters, a Labour member who previously held the borough's chains of office, said the community group had been going for 30 years.

As well as providing typical community activities like mother-and-toddler groups it also operates back-to-work and education programmes.

Coun Peters explained the community association, which needed to raise about £63,000-a-year to survive, had kept going by laying off paid workers, working with private business, applying for grants from a wide range of other sources and asking more from volunteers and the community.

She said: “We had to lay off three top-class workers. I went in to our volunteers with the keys to the centre and said, ‘do we hand these to the council and give up, or do we carry on?’

"It was the hardest decision, but the response was overwhelming to carry on. We operate the same projects and serve the community in the same way.

“It amounted to a total retake on how we ran the centre. We looked at everything from our running costs to funding. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone who has helped keep this place going, it’s part of the lifeblood of our community.”

Jim Higgins, of nearby Normanby, who has stood for the council as an Eston Independent on two occasions, submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council which revealed the sums it had received from the authority.

The £266,000 it had been allocated, included payments from grants, usually from the Government, to be administered via the council for charitable causes.

In response, Coun Peters, pointed out other groups had also received large amounts of money, ranging from £52,000 to £509,000 during the same period.

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