George Street Community Centre

Published: 16 March 2018

Bletchley and Fenny Stratford Town Council owns George Street Community Centre, Fenny Stratford. The building is currently let to the George Street Community Charity. (There is no written lease or licence in existence and the charity is occupying the building through a tenancy at will.) The Town Council has been in dispute with the charity for many months and has, reluctantly, instructed solicitors in order to try to resolve matters.

There are many rumours spreading in the community and on social media about the George Street Community Centre and so the Town Council is publishing the facts below in the interests of clarity. At this time the Town Council will make no comments on the incidents which took place after the Town Council meeting due to be held on 6 March 2018 which was adjourned. We understand that these matters are the subject of police investigations.

Rumour: The Town Council wants to evict the George Street Community Centre Charity so that the Centre can be converted into a mosque or a multicultural centre especially for people from a minority ethnic group.

Fact: In October 2017 the Town Council issued the charity with 3 months’ notice to quit because the charity had refused to engage constructively with the council or provide information about themselves or the way that they were managing the building.

Bletchley and Fenny Stratford is a diverse community. The Town Council is proud to represent the people of many different nationalities, race, religions, ages and sexual orientation who live here. We serve all of the community and we believe our community centres should also be accessible to everyone. We have no plans to change the purpose of the building and it will stay as a community centre for the benefit of existing users and all local residents.

Rumour: The Town Council has refused to sit down to mediation with George Street Community Centre Management Committee.

Fact: Councillors and officers of the Town Council have talked to and written to representatives of George Street Community Centre Management Committee on many occasions but communications have broken down. The Management Committee has made numerous informal complaints and published allegations about the Town Council and its employees. Large amounts of council tax payers’ money has had to be spent on independent investigations of these allegations to check that we are acting properly. None of the complaints have been upheld and many of the allegations made by a number of people on social media are untrue.

The Town Council has not yet decided whether or not to engage in formal mediation with the Management Committee. However some councillors have made clear their personal views that this matter has gone beyond mediation because of the breakdown in trust between the parties.

Rumour: The Town Council will not repair George Street Community Centre and is failing in its duty to keep the building in good order.

Fact: The Town Council has undertaken work to the building and also commissioned a health and safety inspection in 2017. We will continue to complete any urgent or emergency repairs that the charity informs us about. The Town Council has decided that it is unable to commit to non-urgent enhancements to the building until such time as the Charity signs a new lease.

Rumour: The Town Council is guilty of maladministration with regards to the Community Centre.

Fact: The Town Council does not believe it is guilty of maladministration, a charge which was first made on 20 March 2017 by the Chair and then Vice-Chair of the Management Committee (who were also members of Bletchley and Fenny Stratford Town Council at the time). A full investigation was begun but the charity declined to provide any evidence to support its claim or to participate in the investigation process.

Before this investigation the George Street Community Charity had altered its entry on the Charity Commission website to show that the Town Council was the sole trustee of the charity. It did this without telling the Town Council or asking its permission. When this matter was discussed by the Town Council the Chair and Vice-chair of the Management Committee (who were both members of the Council at the time) voted in favour of the Town Council taking over the role of trustee of the charity though they later changed their minds.

Rumour: Individual members of the public are entitled to say anything they want at Town Council meetings and can speak for as long as they like up to the 15 minutes allowed for public speaking, it’s a public meeting.

Fact: Members of the public may ask questions or make representations about items of business on the agenda during the time allowed for public speaking. Regular council meetings are not public meetings for residents to debate matters with councillors. They are business meetings of the council held in public and members of the public have no legal or automatic right to speak. We welcome all residents and always include a public speaking session at our meetings as well as providing other ways to communicate with us.

The Town Council is guided by its Standing Orders. Rule 3f states that public speaking shall take up no more than 15 minutes and Rule 3g states that a member of the public shall not speak for more than 3 minutes. These rules are in place to ensure we treat all members of the public consistently. Members of the public who do not respect the authority of the Chair of the meeting may be required to leave or the meeting may be adjourned depending on the circumstances.-ENDS

 

Requests for information concerning the Town Council should be directed to the Town Clerk (Delia Shephard) via clerk@bletchleyfennystratford-tc.gov.uk or on 01908 649649

and requests for comments or interviews should be directed to the Chairman, Cllr Angela Kennedy, by ringing the same number (01908 649649) or by emailing Angela.Kennedy@bletchleyfennystratford-tc.gov.uk