The Newton Aycliffe Youth and Community Centre Board of Trustees met at the end of last month for its AGM. The Trustees kindly asked me to continue for another year as Chair. This is what I said for my Chair’s Report to the meeting:
WHENCE WE HAVE COME
“It is good perhaps to start by reflecting whence we have come. After Asset-transfer from DCC in 2017, you will remember, the Centre went through a period of difficulty. The Open Youth Club was lost under Council cuts, and for a while the finances were so straightened that we thought we might have to close. The Board, too, was hit by a number of resignations. It was in such circumstances that the current Board took over the running of the Centre.
“Since then, under the able hand of our Centre Manager Beki Metcalfe, the organisation has turned around. Finances are safe and stable (whilst not yet ‘flush’), we have some long-term bookings and loyal ‘returner’ users, we have managed to start a Youth Club (albeit smaller than that run by DCC) which is looking successful, and we have opened discussions with the police for a Friday-night Youth Club to take young people off the streets. Footfall is now double what it was two years ago.
I must particularly praise the Board, also, for their loyalty and reliability; we now have a Board which is stable and friendly, and which is fulfilling its proper function to act as a wise overseer of the Centre’s activities.
“Having said that, the Centre has suffered some significant setbacks in the past three months.
“Most damaging has been the setting-up by a squatter in our garden, which has damaged our business plan, constrained our user-offer, and created a safeguarding problem for those user-groups which help children or vulnerable people. Even though he has now left our garden, we are left with the cost and disruption of cleaning up (notably dealing with the dog-dirt/toxicara). I cannot thank our users enough for their patience and loyalty during this time.
“Recently, also, we have seen our omnipresent volunteer Vince Crosby retire; we have had our application for funding for the kitchen refurbishment rejected; we have found that the potential funding stream for the suggested Friday night youth club is not all we had hoped; and – particularly distressingly – our Partners have had their application for funding for the continuation of the current Wednesday night Youth Club rejected (which, unless we find an alternative funding source, will mean that it will come to an end).
SETBACKS – OVERCOME
“At one time, setbacks such as these might have caused the Centre to stumble. It speaks volumes as to how far we have come in the past 18 months – to the harmony of the Board and the calibre of the Centre Manager – that in fact we have barely been harmed or diverted at all. Public goodwill, also has been remarkable, and a letter in the Newton News seems to have set people’s minds at ease.
“So the next year must be about not allowing these setbacks to affect our progress. We will restore the garden to use, and seek alternative funding for the Youth Club meetings and the kitchen. We already have a wonderful additional volunteer, and hope to strengthen membership of the Board.
“Looking at the projections, whilst we can never take anything for granted, the future looks hopeful, even bright, and we have a secure financial and organisational base on which we can try to build.”
John D Clare