The Stockwell Centre is one of the most valuable things we have in our area – it really is the beating heart of the community.
Sadly, it is at risk of closure as the housing association who run it plan to lease it to a private group. There are no guarantees that the community groups and residents who use the building will still be able to.
Local Labour Councillors from across South London have launched a petition to save the centre and have been out talking to residents who are furious about the plans.
Located just behind the tube station on the Studley Estate, it is one of the few community centres in Lambeth that is open from 9 in the morning until late at night, it provides a vital space and refuge for residents in Stockwell and further afield. Whether it is people trying to beat addiction to drugs or alcohol, children taking part in sports lessons, older people improving their digital skills, or young people getting training to get back into work, the centre is one of the most well used in south London.
The comments of people on our petition site are moving. One user, Helen Doherty wrote: “Please, please, please don't take our hub. It's probably the only place in the area I truly feel safe…I wouldn't have been able to pick my life up again after years of unemployment and a spell of homelessness and land a well-paid job if it wasn't for the support and encouragement I received right there.”
There are nearly 50,000 visits every year – from families holding birthday parties for their kids, to residents seeking help from their MP and councillors. The Studley Estate Residents Association regularly hold parties for children on the estate who otherwise might get few gifts this Christmas.
The local police use it for their community engagement work and have said: “We use this centre for community engagement events. It would be damaging if it was lost.”
Hyde Housing have decided to call time on the centre, along with several others including the Kennington Park Community Centre opposite The Oval.
Hyde are a big player – they collect rent and service charges from 2,000 residents just in Stockwell and many more in the surrounding areas in Vassall, Oval and Larkhall.
We all know that things are tricky, and that savings have to be made by all organisations, and Lambeth Council has had its fair share of difficult decisions, losing 56% of its budget from government since 2010. But we looked to cut back office costs first, for example by selling off empty office building and reducing staff numbers.
Hyde, however, are spending more. Their Chief Executive had a £50,000 pay rise last year, while their Chairman doubled his salary. They made pre-tax profits of £22million and have reserves of £300m. They are simply not facing the same pressure that local government or many other organisations are facing. They can afford to keep these and other community centres open.
It’s clear that the plans are not thought through at all. The consultation which runs until 20 December (please feel free to respond), was not formally sent to councillors. Residents’ association say local people were not aware of Hyde’s plans either.
The consultation suggests another venue that could be used – the Stockwell Partnership on South Lambeth Road, despite the fact that this has only 1 room accommodating around 20 people, compared to the Stockwell Centre which has 7 rooms with the largest seating 120.
It also isn’t clear from the consultation who they plan to lease the building to, and whether it will be turned into a profit making enterprise. The real worry is residents in one of the most deprived parts of London stand to lose out.
Please sign our petition and stop Hyde closing the Stockwell Centre: https://www.change.org/p/hyde-housing-save-the-stockwell-community-centre
Cllr Alex Bigham
Councillor for Stockwell