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500k revamp raises centre rent rise fears
3:00pm Tuesday 17th September 2013 in News
BASILDON Council has set aside £500,000 to give community centres in the borough a makeover.
But it will only give facelifts to centres where community group tenants sign a new lease, which is currently being drawn up by officers and councillors.
The lease will mean the council has a more hands-on approach to maintaining the centres, with officers in charge of health and safety tests as well as sprucing up the buildings.
That has led to fears among community groups of rent rises to follow.
Those renting the buildings said having a pot of cash to freshen up the centres was good news, but they were cautious about the new lease.
Mike Hodges, chairman of Pitsea Mount Community Association, said: “Our rent went up a year ago, so it would be hard to tell the group the rent had gone up again.
“But, until we see the conditions of the final lease, it is hard to pass judgment on it.”
The group rents Pitsea Mount Community Hall, in Brackendale Avenue.
Mr Hodges added: “We’ve got our own contractor to do health and safety, so we’re a bit concerned about the council doing it for us, then billing us.
“Cash for maintenance is good, but I wonder how far £500,000 will go for all the buildings.”
There are 32 buildings on the council’s books, which it leases out to community groups, some of which are half a century old.
Some of the groups who rent them, including Pitsea Mount, are on long-term leases, and the council has to give them the choice whether or not to move on to the new contract.
But 11 buildings have leases that expire in the coming year.
and groups renting them would have no option.
The council said it wanted to take over health and safety tests because some groups were not carrying them out, leaving it potentially liable.
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