The Community House (Waterlees)
I have a confession – I’ve never visited the Community House. I don’t know how or why, but even when I was a County Councillor I never managed to get to it, though I often meant to.
But my friend and colleague Cllr David Wheeler has always proudly told me what an excellent facility it is and how much good work it does – and that’s good enough for me. David Wheeler knows his stuff and he knows Waterlees like few others. If he says it’s awesome, you can take that to the bank, in my opinion.
Also, having shared events and chatted with staff there a few times I’ve always been impressed by their clear dedication and passion for their job.
Now it seems to be a little early to be tolling the bell for the Community House. Cabinet Members seem pretty clear on the fact that this is a consultation only, and you have to have consultations about expenditure at Councils. We must surely expect our Councils to regularly review ALL their spending to see if the way they are using taxpayer’s money is the best use of the funds?
Normally, when something is in consulation, people express their views and Councillors have a heated debate and at some point a conclusion is reached. Rarely do you see anything in the local papers until there is an actual decision one way or another. Sure, let’s be aware of the consultation so that we can – you know – be consulted. But the time to get angry is after a decision we don’t agree with, not before evidence has been gathered and arguments aired.
Instead we’ve got people saying “this wasn’t in the Wisbech2020 meeting” – well of course it wasn’t. Wisbech2020 isn’t a platform for everything Councils may or may not do for the next decade. Its an aspirational set of plans and goals, to allow for cooperation and teamwork between councils, agencies, groups and local people. It didn’t include every consultation the Councils will ever do or it’d have needed to be sixty volumes long.
My feeling about it is that enough of my trusted colleagues speak well of the Community House that I am convinced of its value. But I have to admit I have no idea – presently – what it costs. Until we have all the information, we can’t really know whether money is being used in the best way it can. And that’s what is missing from this heated, vitriolic (and oddly convenient) debate.
It may well be that FDC wont close the Community House because, after the consulation, they’ll take the view that its well worth the cost. No doubt those making the big noise now would then say “See, we saved it!” when they had naff all to do with it. But if not – what would our options be?
Those currently trying to make a media storm about the building focus only on one of the options – force the District Council to change their minds. Sure, if they make a bad decision then I’d support that and will join the voices trying to explain they’ve made a mistake.
But there are other options, depending on what the cost of the place is. We could rescue it by forming a community group and fundraising. We could approach County Council, or Town Council, and ask if they’d be willing to help rescue it. We could approach local businesses and groups and ask for their support.
But there is something different about these latter options, in the worst case scenario that FDC refuse to see the light. These latter options all require some work. Some effort. Some commitment. Rather than just headlines and newspaper quotes. Which is why, if you asked about these other options, you’d probably see tumbleweeds blow across the road.