Group determined to keep Bo’ness hall open

(L-R) James Dickson, Councillor Sandy turner, Janet Foulkes and Robin Foulkes are among a determined group to keep Cowdenhill hall open. Picture: Michael Gillen
(L-R) James Dickson, Councillor Sandy turner, Janet Foulkes and Robin Foulkes are among a determined group to keep Cowdenhill hall open. Picture: Michael Gillen

Community halls and centres are among the most important facilities in towns and villages, but austerity is beating on their doors threatening to blow them down.

Westminster slashes the Scottish budget, the Scottish Government in turn issues cuts to local authority budgets and then the desperate councils are left with dire choices on which services to chop and which ones to keep.

Proposals as part of a cuts programme to manage a £20 million deficit next year for Falkirk Council is to close around 20 properties and halls to trim £190,000 from the annual bills.

To save the centres, the council wants communities to form management committees to run them and it’s the only option on the table at the moment to save them.

The council is currently in talks with communities to discuss how this can be achieved for around 20 properties throughout the district, but it’s proving difficult to nail down how it can be achieved.

Cowdenhill Community Hall in Bridgeness Road, Bo’ness is one of those centres under threat, but a committed group of volunteers are determined to keep it open.

A management committee has been set up by residents which is negotiating with council officers which they hope will enable them to take over the hall and run it as a business. However, there are a number of legalities to thrash out first as the group would then be responsible for staffing and other costs.

The group’s chairperson Elaine Allan said: “We started the committee in April because the hall is a valuable community resource that we do not want to lose.

“We can cater for all kinds of events here for little babies to the elderly, birthday parties, Fair day events, fitness classes, zumba, toddler groups and even puppy classes. It has been under-used in the past but things are coming together and we want to get it filled as much as possible.

“We are in talks with the council at the moment who are helping us step by step and anyone who would like to help or volunteer is welcome.”

A decision on the council’s proposals for ‘facility withdrawal’ has been deferred until February.

A spokesperson for the council said: “We have met with representatives from all the community hall management groups and have listened to their comments and requests for further information. This is currently being assessed and will provide us with valuable guidance as we progress through the engagement process. Currently we are looking at options as part of our budget process with no final decisions being made until February.”

To make your views known on council budget proposals visit www.falkirk.gov.uk/budget.