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Cup Final Project

Free football coaching fails to lure Bookham youngsters

December 5, 2009: The attendance at the first meeting for Bookham's Cup Final Project was a huge disappointment for the organisers. As reported, the scheme was organised by Mole Valley Housing (MVHA) to give offer local boys and girls professional football and other coaching. The first coaching sessions by professionals from Brighton & Hove Albion FC are due to take place at Lower Road recreation ground on January 12. But just four youngsters turned up to the first signing session at the Bookham Youth and Community Centre on December 1. Attendance at later meetings was even lower. MVHA are now trying to work out why the meetings were poorly attended and what happens now.
The news is the more surprising since even older residents believe Bookham's youngsters get a raw deal. One pensioner told a recent residents' meeting that Bookham was "a God-forsaken hole with nothing to offer its youngsters, and the people who criticise them should "get off their backsides" and do something to help. Click here for that story.
Click here for the football story.

Pro footballers will coach boys and girls from January

November 26, 2009: Bookham's youngsters are to get their chance to benefit from professional football and other coaching from next January, the Bugle can reveal.

Mole Valley Housing Association will kick off the new scheme, the Cup Final Project, on December 1 at the Bookham Youth and Community Centre at 6pm for the eight to 12 year olds and 6.45pm for the 12-16 year age group. The Bugle understands the first coaching sessions by professionals from Brighton & Hove Albion FCwill take place at Lower Road recreation ground on January 12.

The scheme is related to the Kickz programme. Launched in April 2006 by then prime minister Tony Blair, Kickz is a joint initiative between the football industry and the police, supported by the government's Respect Task Force, the Russell Commission and 'V', the youth volunteering charity. But unlike Kickz, which is open to the 12 to 16 age group, the Cup Final Project will also take in the eight to 12 age group.

Nearly 40 professional football clubs from the Premier League and Football League are delivering 110 Kickz projects in partnership with the Police and local authorities across the country. The Kickz idea is to use the power of football to ‘build safer, stronger, more respectful communities through the development of young people’s potential’, says the Football Foundation.

Three nights a week, all year round, Kickz delivers a variety of activities, including football and other sports, music, arts and developmental workshops on issues ranging from healthy lifestyles to the dangers of carrying weapons.

The foundation says Kickz projects have contributed to drops in anti-social behaviour of up to 60% and helped equip the next generation with key employable skills which they otherwise would not have had. "Kickz is so effective because it uses the power of professional football clubs’ brands and because the sessions take place in the estates themselves and at the times when there is effectively no provision for young people."

Over 90% of Kickz projects include activities on a Friday or Saturday night, whereas just 4% of local authority provision for young people takes place on a Friday or Saturday night, and less than 1% on a Saturday night.

Kickz has over 30,000 registered participants aged 12-18 living in tough areas with high rates of anti-social behaviour. Kickz has helped tackle knife crime by persuading thousands of youngsters to sign up to a campaign urge people not to carry knives.

In October the Kickz Awards took place at Wembley Stadium, where key figures in football, music and politics, such as Tottenham Hotspur’s Tom Huddlestone, music act Kid British, Minister for Sport Gerry Sutcliffe MP and Schools Minister Vernon Coaker MP paid tribute to inspirational teenagers, professional football club coaches, police and local authority staff who have gone over and above the call of duty to make their communities safer and transform young peoples’ lives.

To find out more about Kickz, go to the Kickz questions page.

The MVHA event at the youth and community centre is free and open to all young residents but they and their parents or guardians must fill in a form and bring it on the day of coaching. The form is a 'model release' which allows photographers to take photographs of the youngsters for promotion and commercial purposes.

Fresh start in brilliant sunshine

September 19, 2009: So at last Bookham has its brand new scouting centre.  The modest-looking building next to Eastwick school is a triumph.  After a ceremony opened by Radio Gold DJ and local resident John Osborne (right) on Saturday, scouts now have a large assembly hall, lavishly equipped kitchens, a meeting room and plenty of space to store the tents and masses of other equipment modern scouting needs. 


But as Geoff Tranter, the current first Bookham explorer leader and chairman of the Bookham scout centre committee, put it, it's been "a long journey."  Bookham scouts t ook over the scout hut in Lower Road in 1914, he told a large crowd of scouts, parents and local people, "and it was old then." 


The Lower Road premises comprised two halls on a site surrounded by roads. The "old hall" was nearly 100 years old and the "new hall" was constructed in the 1960s. Neither provided the facilities required by modern scouting. 


There was no outside space available for activities and there were no toilets: "Access from dropping off and collecting children was limited and caused congestion at the beginning and end of each meeting (of which there are between one and three each afternoon/evening)," says the Bookham Scouting Centre website. The construction of the medical centre behind the site, may have been welcome for village residents, but it further increased traffic in the vicinity.


Church gift

The 1st and 3rd Bookham Scouts leased the old scout hut from the freeholder, the Diocese of Guildford and the parish of St Nicholas Church. The sale of the freehold, completed in January 2008 after negotiations which involved different sets of lawyers from Bookham scouts, the scout association, St Nicholas and the Diocese of Guildford, yielded £140,000 for the scouts out of the total sale value of £400,000.

Not everyone in scouting circles is convinced that giving the scouts a third of the sale value was as generous to an organisation that had been paying rent for over 90 years as it might have been. But appeals to the local community raised another £30,000, to which gift aid added another £10,000. Local associations and sponsorship by local businesses raised more, and Mole Valley and Surrey councils and grant making bodies brought the total to just under £400,000. The building itself cost £330,000.

Award of merit

"The whole of the Bookham community has been terrific in getting all this together," said Geoff Tranter, who can take much of the credit for driving the project to a successful conclusion. 


But Tranter gives the credit to Matt Davis, describing him as the centre's the project's designer, architect, quantity surveyor, health and safety guru, and master of planning and building regulations, and even built and designed the Bookham scouts' website. 


The Scout Association has made Davis an award of merit, said its county commissioner Richard Shortman, for outstanding service to scouting.  The award was signed by the chief scout, former Blue Peter presented Peter Duncan, who was there to make it. 


"Keep the spirit going," says Duncan

Opening the new centre, Duncan said the day represented everything that was good about scouting: "It's about trust and honesty," he said, and all those who engaged in scouting did it because they wanted to be involved in the community.  "Eventually that spirit permeates into the wider community and today is an example of that, all the people who had contributed to this building, to this spirit, to this atmosphere.  Keep the spirit going in Bookham, because what you've done here is very special and I congratulate you all."


He released balloons in colours representing the local scout groups and unveiled a plaque.  

The pictures:

The scout hut on Lower Road, (right) sited on what became an island surrounded by busy school and medical-centre traffic, was already old when the scouts first moved in there in 1914. 


Top right: Radio Gold DJ John Osborne stands before the new scouting centre to begin the opening ceremony, which took place as Bookham celebrated 100 years of scouting. 


 Second from top: Explorer Scout leader and project committee chairman Geoff Tranter (left), looks on as Surrey county commissioner Richard Shortman explains the role Matt Davis, third left, played in the project.  His efforts have been recognised in an award made by former chief scout Peter Duncan, right. 


 Third from top: Peter Duncan, former chief scout and ex Blue Peter presenter, lunges to cut the tape. 


Fourth from top: Peter Duncan teases the crowd before unveiling the plaque commemorating the Centre's opening. 


Free at last!

March 1, 2009: Tomorrow (Monday) is a longed-for red-letter day for Bookham's youth centre. That's when the newly formed Bookham Youth and Community Centre (BYACC) charity takes over the Lower Road building's lease.

It hasn't been plain sailing. The centre is taking over the premises from Surrey County Council (SCC). Negotiations over the details of the acquisition still ramble on. Sue Lawrence, the centre's figurehead and, with Debbie Hill of Smartypants, long time campaigner for its future, says, "There are still things to iron out."

Lawrence isn't willing to go further, for instance by guessing when the negotiations might end. She says merely that, "I wouldn't like to put a time frame on it. It's ongoing. There are one or two bits we need to finalise, final tweaks."

It's no secret, however, that some involved are not pleased with the state of the building they now inherit from SCC. We're not talking paintwork here but the provision, for example, of safe and usable fire doors for a building used almost exclusively by those many of the community prize most, their young. BYACC doesn't see why it should use hard-earned, meagre funds to restore the building to the standard SCC has had a duty to maintain until today. And then there's the matter of BYACC's discovery, only days ago, that they would be expected to take over the pay of a part-time cleaner formerly on SCC's payroll.

SCC has not felt the negotiation important enough to assign authority for its conclusion to any one negotiator. Instead, Lawrence has had to deal one by one with a series of SCC departments covering youth provision, building maintenance, fire safety and others.

Brushing questions about this aside, Lawrence says what matters is that, "We are in charge of the management of the building and we have a lease. It's a three-year lease. By the end of that we wil have proved that this is a sustainable and viable resource and a model that could be rolled out elsewhere."

The change of name to include the community doesn't change the centre's focus, says Lawrence: "The core business has to stay on youth and youth activities," she says, and lists band nights to be held six or eight times a year, project nights every Monday evening Рthe young people are developing their disco area and will soon start work on a music and sound recording area Рsocials every Wednesday for those 13 and over, mix and DJ nights, and theyouth caf̩, launched last November and running on Tuesday afternoons for anyone of secondary school age.

But the BYACC can't afford to make the building available for local young people without making sure it's earning a living even when they're at school. So it's being used by University of the Third Age (U3A) to play table tennis and badminton. Debbie Hill runs the Smarty Pants pre-school group there each weekday. There's maths tutoring, even a belly-dancing class, should that be your pleasure.

The club is supported in part by a £3,000 grant from Surrey Youth Capital Fund , which in turn is funded by central government. And SCC's Surrey Youth Development will staff and run the Monday and Wednesday club nights under Youth Leader Gary Nash. Under SCC ownership the centre could not apply for rate relief. A charitable trust may get such relief and have access to the national lottery and other funding.

Cllr David Walker (Con, Bookham North) paid tribute to the hard work put in by Sue Lawrence: "If it hadn't been for her, we wouldn't have got as far as fast as we have."

The next band night is on April 4, starting at 7pm.

Picture, top right: Former Virgin Radio (now Absolute Radio) DJ John Osborne showed young Harry the finer points of DJ technique at last year's Bookham Youth Centre open day.

More police praise for 'brlliantly run' Bookham Youth Centre

March 3, 2009: Police have heaped more praise on the running of the Bookham Youth Centre. As reported below, January's police panel meeting was encouraging for those running the centre opposite the Anchor in Lower Road. At the latest panel meeting on Monday (March 2), police once more gave the centre a clean bill of health.

Local PC John Hench's report concentrated on the Bookham band nights held at the centre. The number of stop-and-account forms police completed, mostly for under-age drinking, fell from 16 on the January 23 band night to 10 on February 27, said PC Hench. Police sent letters to all the parents and guardians of those involved.

At the first meeting of the year beer and cider had been hidden in the grounds of the centre. A huge police turnout found most of it and, Hench reported, police found no booze caches at all at the second.

The second band night was an all-ticket event. This was excellent, said Hench. At earlier events 100 people would turn up and only 70 could be admitted, leaving the rest with nowhere to go. The centre is now concerned to make sure that the community knows about the need for tickets, said Hench.

"Overall I have to say that I think Bookham band night is run brilliantly." The club's bouncers, who search the audience for alcohol on the way in, "look after everything that's going on within the Bookham youth centre [and] liaise with us as much as possible.

"The last couple [of events] have been excellent and, apart from the few – which you're always going to get – who try to bring in their own alcohol, the overall behaviour of the kids attending has been pretty good."

Apart from a little inevitable noise at the end of the evening, said Hench, I have, "really, no issues whatsoever."

Youth centre 'not the cause of local problems, say police

January 10, 2009: Last week's police panel meeting had some encouragement for those running the Youth Centre opposite the Anchor in Lower Road.

A year ago PC John Hench told a local meeting that he would rather it wasn't there. But asked last week by County Cllr Jim Smith about the flow of youngsters coming down from the station and going on to the Youth Centre, Hench said, "The Youth Centre was what attracted them and they found they could get here [by train].

"Now we are seeing youths from Leatherhead coming here but there is no correlation between the Youth Centre and the problems we have been having."

Plenty of volunteers needed

October 20, 2008: A local group is in the final stages of negotiating with Surrey County Council (SCC) to take over management of the Bookham Youth Centre from November 1. The group, led by Sue Lawrence, has set up the Bookham Youth and Community Association Ltd (BYCA), which will become a charitable trust.

SCC's Youth Development Service will continue to run a youth club on two nights of the week. The BYCA will develop other activities. These will include the successful Bookham Band Nights, and in November the centre will run an after school drop-in youth café for a trial period. A youth conference is planned for the spring.

The centre's young clients have already won a "substantial" youth capital grant for redecorating the centre and are now moving on to refurbish the music and sound-recording area.

Though the centre is primarily for Bookham's young people, it will provide community activities for all ages. The group needs plenty of new money over the next year and, as reported here, many volunteers to help run and organise the Centre. "Its future depends on its being used well by all," says the management group. "This will now be our centre, run by local people for all of us and deserves our support."

If you can offer your time or support, please get in touch with Sue Lawrence either by email or phone 01372 458046.

Update, January 2009: Police give Youth Centre a pat on the back

Two years to show the centre is a going concern

February 2, 2008. ‘At last we’re off and running’. That was the clear message from Bookham Youth Centre as Saturday’s open day ended.

But Debbie Hill and Sue Lawrence (pictured to left and right of Harry Potter star Tom Felton, right), two of the driving forces on the centre’s new management group, are in no doubt about the size of the task ahead.

The centre and its youthful users have endured two years of dithering and doubt since Surrey County Council (SCC) put its earlier decision to axe the centre on ice (Full story below).

A ‘foundation’ group of local parents, councillors, and members of the Bookham Residents’ Association (BRA) have laboured ever since to wring from the SCC a route for its sustained future.

The clouds have far from cleared. But the management group, which also includes Vicky Dixon, Nigel Salmon, Caroline Hughes and John Aberdeen, is now determined to raise both the £15,000 to keep the centre afloat and enough volunteers to support all the activities the centre must host to justify its existence.

The management group, responsible for the centre’s day to day running, is the tenant for the building, which SCC will continue to own. The group has a two year breathing space in which to prove the centre is a going concern. The SCC will charge only a peppercorn rent for that time. ‘It’s a chance to show we can market this place and get it back on the map,’ says Debbie.

The final rent is still being negotiated, adds Sue. The group is pinning down fine details like what the centre will charge for its use. In the past, the centre’s book-keeping has been less than clear. Nor have hard and fast rules been devised about who pays for the centre’s upkeep. The SCC will take on roof repairs and the building’s main fabric. The management group will have to account for broken windows or other minor repairs.

The group has yet to complete its business plan, but it hopes to attract local people to a wide range of activities. The centre’s core business’ will still be to offer a local meeting place for Bookham’s young people. But to reflect a new, wider focus the centre is now ‘The Bookham Youth and Community Centre’.

Debbie expects the centre to host playgroups – it’s long been the home of the Smarty Pants pre-school group Debbie runs – and badminton, table tennis and keep-fit groups. She stresses that the centre is ‘cross-generational’, so elderly residents’ groups will be welcome too.

Next steps

But the centre exists for Bookham’s youth. The Friday band nights held eight times a year and promoted solely by word of mouth used to attract 200 to hear local rock groups. The management group wants these to continue. The Monday and Wednesday 13-plus youth club nights will be run by SCC’s Youth Development Service.

Debbie and Sue praise the work of the foundation group, particularly Councillor David Walker and BRA committee members John Pagella (see below) and Peter Seaward. Debbie describes local SCC councillor Jim Smith as ‘our backbone’.

For the moment he and the others take a back seat while the management group prove they can make the centre a going concern. Sue and Debbie say many local people had no idea what the centre did. Now it’s up to local people to put in the time, energy and money needed to keep the centre going. ‘We want the building to be used,’ says Debbie.

‘It’s really important,’ says Sue, ‘to have a place where young people can get together. But local people have got to be thinking about what they need to do to support it. We need volunteers, people willing to put some hours in.’

Every little helps, even an hour a week. Volunteers are needed not just at the centre but for other roles in marketing, raising money and doing project work with local young people.

A lot of work has already been done. The local committee – a meeting of SCC and Mole Valley District Council which deals with common local concerns – has provided some funds for painting and cleaning up. And the centre’s kitchen has been refurbished. Local charity Leatherhead Lions has donated sports equipment, and local film star Tom Felton (pictured above), now 20, who says he spent much of his life between the ages of six and 15 at the centre, is among those who have made donations.

If you think you can help the Centre phone Debbie on 01372 457100 or Sue on 458046.

Bookham's young sports addicts

Saturday’s open day saw Bookham's youngsters take parts in lively table tennis and indoor football games. Debbie led a street dance demonstration, and her husband, Virgin Radio presenter John Osborne, invited all comers to take the controls of the professional broadcasting equipment he’d brought along.

Harry Potter's co-star revives old(ish) memories

Tom Felton has a lot of time for the Bookham Youth Centre. As he played pool at Saturday’s open day the former Howard of Effingham student told The Bugle, ‘I came here between the ages of six and 15’. The 20 year old star had attended the centre’s summer scheme and its Thursday and Friday club nights. Tom didn’t say so but we understand he has handed over to the centre some of the hard-earned cash he made in his role as Harry Potter villain Draco Malfoy.

David Wren's drum workshop

Attendees young and old joined in enthusiastically as David Wren, a Howard sixth former, took them through their paces at the youth centre’s open-day drum workshop (picture, right). David says he has been in several bands over the last seven years. His current band is According to Her.

Radio star lends an ear

Virgin Radio (now Absolute Radio) dj John Osborne (with Clara, right) clearly enjoyed his day with Bookham’s youngsters. John brought along professional standard equipment for them to try out. ‘It gave them the chance to sit down and run through a proper script,’ he says. ‘It let them have a bit of fun and express themselves.’

What did the young people make of the experience? ‘The older ones wanted to do a chart run down, get the stress on the right words and put a bit of emotion into it. The younger ones just wanted to play with the knobs!’

John’s in no doubt about the youth centre’s value to the community: ‘It’s most important that the awareness is out there so that we can save it.’

27 March 2007: The views of Bookham youth are 'normally by-passed', says Bookham youth leader Emily Scott. For many of the young people of Bookham and Mole Valley 'to express their opinions and ideas effectively, and for these to be acknowledged as a positive contribution towards the community,' she says, is 'an unaccomplishable feat.'

Scott is best known for her prominent role in last year's campaign against the threatened closure of the Bookham Youth Centre. Writing in the Bookham Residents’ Association's spring Bookham Broadsheet, she says, 'Young people are an abundant and valuable resource, willing and eager to suggest new and exciting ideas on topics affecting the community; why not harness this input and encourage the young people of Bookham to have their say?'

Instead, she says, for many Bookham youngsters, 'positions of influence may seem to be adult domains which are inaccessible and perhaps rather daunting to them.'

Scott goes on to encourage local youth to join Mole Valley Youth Voice and Millennium Volunteers, where 'not only are young people able to contribute their views and give up their time and effort towards bettering the community, they can now feel their voices are truly being heard.

'And about time too! [These] organisations allow the normally by-passed opinions of the youth of Bookham to be listened to, understood and acted upon. Those who really want to feel they are a piece of the community puzzle are now able to feel as though they may play a part, however small, in the Bookham Community.

'Mole Valley Youth Voice is a youth council, with the aim to involve young people in defining which council services should be available to youth, inform young people about local democracy, and to give them a voice. As well as holding monthly meetings to discuss current affairs and issues which are relevant to the young community, they hold numerous events for the youth of Mole Valley, including conferences, music nights, and Youth Showcase Evenings to recognise the achievements of young people.

'Millennium Volunteers is a National organisation which actively promotes, rewards and encourages volunteer work amongst the ages of 16 and 24, helping to arrange volunteer placements and projects with the objective of enhancing the community.'

Youth Centre campaigners fail to achieve SCC meeting

Local papers reported last November that Bookham Youth Centre has been given a reprieve.

Since then, however, MVDC Cllr David Walker (Con, Bookham North) and John Pagella of the Bookham Residents’ Association (BRA) have failed to get Surrey County Council (SCC) to agree to a meeting to work out how a local management committee for the Youth Centre could be set up, managed and run.

Progress is frustratingly slow, says Pagella: 'We have been hoping to have a meeting with the SCC Estates Department for months to discuss the basis on which the project can work. So far they have not been able to meet us. We are available, but for no reason we can understand, they are not.'

Pagella says SCC has a number of other Youth Centres 'and apparently are trying to formulate a consistent approach.' While this is understandable, 'it will not take us forward if, when we eventually hear what they propose, it is not appropriate having regard to local circumstances.

'We need a process whereby we can discuss the details. And that requires a meeting which has yet to take place and is long overdue.'

Writing in the latest BRA Broadsheet, BRA chairman Peter Seaward says: 'We are now optimistic that a solution satisfactory to both SCC and the club users will be found. This should place the youth club more firmly under the control of the village and we will be seeking more volunteers to participate in the management of the centre.'

This seems to point to one option, a not-for-profit charitable organisation run by local people, as the favoured solution. But this could founder on two grounds. One is that there is no guarantee of enough local volunteers to staff the organisation adequately. The other is some local doubt about why unelected local people should be expected to run facilities that the taxpayer has already paid for.

In the light of Pagella's comments it looks as though this solution could also founder if it doesn't fit SCC's one-size-fits-all approach.

31 July 2006: Youth Centre future hangs on finding management volunteers

The Bookham Youth Centre could close even if village representatives present a business plan acceptable to Surrey County Council, says Bookham Residents' Association (BRA) chairman Peter Seaward.

Seaward chairs the executive committee of the Bookham Community Group (BCG), a body set up to save the club. The BCG is a loose federation of the BRA, the Bookham Community Association (which runs the Barn Hall), Churches Together, local scout groups, the Centre's users and youth workers, local councillors and schools.

All those represented on the BCG want to know how they can specifically take a major role, says Seaward. 'However,' he warns, 'it won't succeed unless we find a management group that's willing to take it on board. It needs people to do that.' He estimates it would take at least four committed individuals to form the Centre's management committee.

As reported two weeks ago (see below), the BCG and its executive committee are working with SCC to draw up a two-year business plan for running the Centre after SCC transfers its running 'but not its bricks and mortar' to a charitable trust, probably in the autumn. The business plan assumes the SCC will underwrite the Centre at least two years.

'At the moment we are going through a process of understanding the revenue issues and some of the capital implications,' Seaward told the Bugle. These implications arise from the maintenance cost of the building. 'We understand the numbers reasonably well. But we think what we need to understand is on what kind of terms would Surrey be willing to licence [or] lease the building back to the community.'

If SCC were to transfer ownership only under a full repairing lease, Seaward says, 'We just couldn't do it.' It would be better if SCC were willing to grant the BCG a licence to run the Centre. Seaward says he understands '74,000 is available in the capital budget to do whatever needs to be done to bring the Centre back into a reasonable condition. The structure is sound but the building needs redecoration.

Even if the lease-licence issue can be resolved, the Centre has to become profitable. The SCC estimate is that the Centre was losing £30,000 a year. 'The first thing this management committee has to establish is who are the users, what income might they generate, and what other income might be available,' says Seaward. He points out that, 'None of the halls round here is a big money spinner.'

Seaward confirms the Bugle's report that under SCC ownership the Centre cannot seek rate relief but would be able to do so as a charitable trust (see below). He adds that it might also have access to national lottery and other funds. Emily Scott, who has led the campaign against the Centre's closure, has been working on this, says Seaward.

Whatever happens, says Seaward, the first priority is that 'the maintenance of the provision for the kids has to be ensured and maintained.'

The SCC too will keep a close eye on this. As Seaward points out, Surrey's interest is in the provision of youth services, not in running a community centre. At the moment the centre is being used by U3A, pilates groups, badminton and table tennis clubs. Funding for youth centre comes under the education budget and that's already under pressure.

Writing and photography courses in new ELP programme
As reported here in a recent paper review, one source of income for the Centre might be the fledgling Effingham Learning Partnership (ELP). The ELP programme, just published, includes digital photography, creative writing and money management among the courses on offer over the next year. Some courses are specifically for adults but others will be designed for adults and children working together.

The full programme, just published in the first ELP newsletter, is as follows:
Cooking with the Kids 'Taster course for adults and children working together.
Your Amazing Brain ' Taster course for adults looking at different learning styles and practical techniques to support your child.
Creative Writing Workshop - For adults, focusing on a range of techniques from writing books, plays, short stories, to TV and radio.
Nordic Walking - Taster course for adults and children together introducing one of the most sociable and effective exercise techniques around.
IT refresher courses for adults who may feel they have been passed by in the IT revolution, a chance to develop/refresh those skills...
Digital Photography 'making the most of your camera, a beginners' course for adults and children working together.
Money Management for Teenagers 'advice for adults and teenagers on this taxing subject.
Cycle Trails 'five week course for adults to familiarise them with local cycle routes and build their confidence so that they are happy to take their children out and enjoy the countryside together.

Many of these courses are free and will be funded or part funded by Surrey County Council's Family Learning Unit.
If you have any suggestions for adult or family learning activities which you think would be popular within in our community, please contact Kathy Ashford, ELP Manager at the Howard, on 01372 453694 or email

13 July 2006: Figures and staffing are a moving target

As the fight to keep the Bookham Youth Centre open creeps forward, there's still something of a mystery about its current financial status.

Various documents doing the rounds in the spring and summer had the Centre's yearly losses running variously at £18,000, £20,000 or even £30,000. And the somewhat alarming figure of £70,000 was mentioned.

The latest info appears to be that the income is running at around £20,000 and the outgoings at around £30,000, which leaves a gap of only £10,000. Earlier in the year, however, the income figure was put at only £9,000. The £70,000 figure is the amount needed to get the building back into something like decent repair.

Perhaps we'll soon be treated to the full story from the six-strong executive committee of the Bookham Community Group, a body set up to save the club. The job of the executive committee, chaired by Bookham Residents Association chairman Peter Seaward, is to negotiate with Centre owner Surrey County Council (SCC).

Two year business plan
Besides Seaward the executive comprises: Debbie Hill, who represents the Smarty Pants pre-school group; Conservative Councillor Clare Curran (for MVDC councillors); James Penny (youth representative); Kate Rice (Youth Centre), and Mel Commandeur (Churches Together). Emily Scott, who led the Centre's highly effective media campaign against closure, was also invited to join.

The committee is drawing up a two-year business plan for running the Centre after SCC transfers its running 'but not its bricks and mortar' to a charitable trust, probably in the autumn. As a charitable trust the centre would be able to reduce its rates paid to MVDC and other costs.

The business plan rests on the assumption that, if SCC granted the Centre a lease, or underwrote its running, for at least two years then the centre would be able to increase its rental income from £9,000 to £18,000 a year. SCC would provide the current level of youth leadership staff 'though what that is, exactly, is a further mystery since even some of the staff can't agree about their roles.

Assumption of closure
SCC had threated to close the Centre along with 14 of Surrey's other 41 youth centres. But the 15 were given a six-month stay of execution in the run-up to the recent district elections. This was widely interpreted as a sign that Surrey wanted to close the Centre but preferred to wait until the elections were over before announcing the closure.

SCC's statement, released towards the end of March, said the plans were 'being revised to give more time to develop new approaches to providing services for young people in Surrey.'
SCC said a review had 'exposed poor charging policies where youth centre buildings are rented to other users. By looking to increase charges, the council's youth service will largely cease to subsidise other users. This means important funds will not be diverted from youth work to pay utilities bills. The current arrangements,' said Surrey, 'are not feasible in the longer term.' The executive committee believes the centre could make savings and achieve a higher income by increasing the centre's use. At the moment the centre is only open a few nights a week and isn't used much during afternoons or, perhaps surprisingly, at weekends, when its potential clients aren't in school.

Earlier position
In April Conservative SCC Councillor for Bookham and Fetcham West James Smith told the executive committee that, by reducing costs and increasing rent for the Centre's use, it should be possible to reduce the current annual overspend of the Club from £30,000 a year to below £10,000 a year.
Earlier this month the Effingham Learning Partnership, a group of 12 Effingham-area schools led by the Howard, said it would consider running classes at the Centre. First, however, it would carry out a survey of possible interest in its services over the next few weeks. The ELP idea was to offer family learning projects 'in parenting and cookery with a link to the healthy schools initiative.'

The Bugle wishes the Centre well. Even so we can see several worrying signs in the way the its future is being decided. Why can't we yet see a simple cash statement of the Centre's incomings and outgoings' Who actually runs the Centre now, and how many staff will the Centre have under the new dispensation? And why aren't the meetings of the executive, which is deciding the future of an asset we own as taxpayers - open to the public and the Press?

The Bugle's editor attempted to report one of these meetings and was excluded not by a decision of the executive as a whole but on the whim of the chairman, Peter Seaward, without reference to any of his fellow committee members.

Given this penchant for secrecy, it is absolutely essential that the terms and conditions under which the charitable trust is set up are decided and approved to meet the demands of the community, not one individual. It is no slight whatever on the present executive committee to point out that, even if they can be trusted, that can't be guaranteed for all time. So they have to be accountable, and the same applies to the trust they set up.

The executive must put all its proposals for any action 'including drawing up trust deeds' to a meeting of the Bookham Community Group (BCG) for approval. Future meetings of the BCG must be advertised on the website of the Bookham Community Association (BCA), which runs the Barn Hall.

These meetings must be open to any Bookham resident who wishes to attend. Full records must be kept of all meetings of the executive and the BCG published, preferably on the BCA website or in the Bookhams Bulletin. The financial statements must also be fully available. Given the present confusion over the state of the Centre's finances, this is the least Bookham is entitled to expect.

Youth centre reprieve:

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