BACKTRACKING on plans to charge £11,500 per year in rent for the new Kingsway community centre, Gloucester City Council have now halved that amount in a bid to appease angry community groups.
The community centre is being built by developers and will be handed over to the council for free, who will in turn lease it out to a tenant – widely tipped to be Quedgeley Parish Council, who run the existing centre.
But potential tenants were told they would have to fork out a ‘fair’ rent for the building.
After widespread anger about the charge, councillor Fred Wood, cabinet member for performance and resources, has conceded by halving the rent.
He admitted: “We believed this was a sensible approach in the current financial climate. However any decent organisation listens to its customers and the comments and the views they express.
“This is precisely what we have done. Despite the superb facilities local people felt that it would be difficult to attract an operator with the rental set at that level. So we have listened to that and decided to halve the price.
“Our new offer really has to be one too good to refuse and one that will provide a brilliant facility for the area.”
The community centre, being built opposite the Kingsway shopping precinct, will now cost £5,000 per year but the first year will be free and the second will be offered with a 50 per cent reduction.
The purpose built building will boast two function rooms, kitchen, bar facilities, an office, committee rooms, toilets, parking and an activity area.
But some feel that the rent is still too high.
County councillor Barry Kirby (L, Grange and Kingsway) said: “While I welcome the news that the city council is reducing the rent, I would like to see this Kingsway tax removed completely. I think the fact that the council have lowered the cost is a positive step for the community who will use the facility, however I still feel they have missed the point.
“The fact remains that they have not built or maintained this facility and do not have any costs to recoup, all they will do is pass on the keys from the developers to the tenants and for that they will make a profit of £117,500 over the lifetime of the contract.
“That is money that will be paid by my residents who use the centre, the same residents who have paid their council tax for so long while not getting all the services the council provides.
“If the city council can see fit to halve the rent, then they should be able to do it properly and make it a nominal or peppercorn rent.”
Quedgeley Parish Council are pushing ahead with their bid to run the centre.
Chris Pearce, chairman of Quedgeley Parish Council, said: “This is great for the Kingsway community as we wanted to continue to provide a community centre resource as we do now but the rent was a bolt out of the blue. This now becomes more of a financial proposition for the Parish council to bid to continue managing the facility for the Kingsway residents.”
Parish clerk Jacquie Webster added: “I’m pleased that the city council have reviewed the rental amount and as a result have halved the amount, that said this is still an amount that was not expected. Quedgeley Parish Council remain committed to bidding for this facility as our main aim in all of this is to provide an excellent facility for all of our parishioners who quite rightly deserve a decent facility for the precept that they pay.”