Story: Douglas Johnson & Lisa Swift
Burngreave New Deal for Communities will officially come to an end by March and its assets will be transferred to the Council. Sorby House and Vestry Hall will be owned and run by the Council while Forum House will be sold.
March 2011 is the official end date for the New Deal for Communities government programme which brought £52 million into the Burngreave area over 10 years. The New Deal Partnership Board had planned to continue after March as a charity, but the threat of insolvency, following years of losses in running their buildings, meant they could not continue.
Sheffield Council approved the proposal to take over New Deal’s buildings at its Cabinet meeting on 22nd December. During public questions Ronnie Lewin, Chair of Burngreave New Deal board, said there had been a lack of support from the Council. He said they had been working hard to avoid a liability for Sheffield Council tax payers for the last three years, but felt there simply hadn’t been adequate support from the Council. Ronnie continued by saying he thought the current situation “could have been avoided,” and that all those who had been part of a board were responsible.
In reply, Councillor Paul Scriven explained that current issues didn’t date from the last three years and blamed the previous management for “spending too much money too fast” on buildings. He went on to reject allegations that the Council had not supported New Deal, commenting that council officers had spent “hundreds, if not tens of thousands of hours of officer time” on New Deal.
Joe Horobin, from the Council’s Neighbourhood Renewal and Partnerships Service, presented the Council’s report on New Deal. The Council is required to guarantee the pensions of the New Deal employees and will work with New Deal to transfer the buildings into council ownership investing the “limited amount” necessary to prevent closure of the buildings. This will avoid the Council paying the £10 million spent on capital investments in Sorby House, the Vestry Hall and Forum House back to the Government.
The Cabinet report stated that ownership of Sorby House would be temporary, and they would be exploring a sale to a commercial or community organisation demonstrating “benefit to the local community”. Reassuringly for existing tenants the report commits the Council to “work within the terms of the existing tenancy agreements… and ensure [tenants] have opportunities to be involved in discussions about the future of the building.”
For the Vestry Hall it states, “The Council’s Community Buildings Team will work with existing tenants and other local groups and people to support them to take an active role in the management of this building.”