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Preston City Council approves waiving rent arrears for three community groups

Posted on - 28th August, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Avenham, Charities, Plungington, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News
A sunlit Preston Town Hall Pic: Tony Worrall
A sunlit Preston Town Hall Pic: Tony Worrall

Preston City Council has effectively waived a total of £28,000 of rental payments for three community groups in order to ensure that they can continue to do their work.

The authority’s cabinet agreed the move, which will see it use an underspend from last year’s budget to provide one-off assistance to the Plungington Community Centre; the Black community support organisation, Windrush Initiatives CIC; and disability support group Pukar.

The trio – which all operate from city council-owned buildings – had each approached the authority to seek help with their running costs.

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A cabinet report described the groups as “valued organisations delivering critical work” within some of the city’s most needy communities.

The authority says that it will now work with the three beneficiaries to develop business plans to help them become financially sustainable and make sure that they can afford their rent in future years.

The relief will be delivered by paying each of the groups a grant of £9,333 – derived from leftover funds in its community engagement budget for 2022/23 – which will then immediately be returned to the town hall to cover existing rental liabilities.

The report to cabinet members says that the operating models of the three groups have been “significantly impacted by the pandemic” and adds that the council is “well positioned” to support them as their landlord.

Cabinet member for communities and social justice Nweeda Khan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “These are one-off contributions to help support the groups delivering essential services to some of the most deprived and disadvantaged communities in the city. Offsetting the rental contributions removes a huge burden, enabling critical support services to continue.

“Alongside supporting their work, this also enables a wider dialogue with our community and voluntary sector and our continuation of the community grants programme and food hub support.”

The authority says that it is also currently developing a “more joined up, strategic approach” to managing its relationship with the community organisations that form part of its estate.

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Who are the groups getting rent relief?

Plungington Community Centre’s council-owned base on Brook Street acts as a central hub for activities designed to improve health and wellbeing and reduce social isolation in one of Preston’s most deprived wards. The former school building is operated by Caritas Care and features a large hall and a number of smaller rooms, all available for hire by community groups. It is also being used to establish new groups and support networks – including for Somali and Ukrainian refugees – and includes a community cafe.

Windrush Initiatives CIC operates from a city council-owned property at Oakham Court on Avenham Lane and provides support to the Black community in Preston, including accredited financial advice, warm rooms for those unable to afford to heat their homes, employment training for those out of work, access to food for those in need and mental health support for families. The group also organises the annual Windrush Festival.

Also based at Oakham Court, Pukar is a disability and community support organisation whose qualified resource centre staff offer advocacy and training support for disabled and ethnic minority residents. It also facilitates a self-advocacy user-led group.

The LDRS attempted to contact each of the groups for comment.

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