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Town Hall chiefs vow to keep Ringcross centre open

Hyde housing association branded 'corporate pirates' at public meeting

18 April, 2017 — By Alex Green

Under threat: the community centre on the Ringcross estate in Holloway

TOWN Hall leaders have vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to keep a community centre in Holloway open for residents.

Speaking at a public meeting at Ringcross Community Centre on Saturday, Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Islington’s housing chief, backed residents campaigning to keep the centre in community hands after Hyde housing association, which owns the Ringcross estate, announced it will no longer run it.

He said: “If Hyde want to stand with the community and keep the centre open, we stand ready to work with Hyde. However, if Hyde don’t want to work with us we will fight tooth and nail to keep this centre.”

Around 30 people attended the meeting, which was organised by Friends of Ringcross, a group of residents who regularly use the building on the Ringcross estate in Holloway. The centre offers martial arts, gardening and pilates classes.

Hyde announced last month it planned to transfer management of the Ringcross to one or more unknown organisations, citing the “substantial” loss it makes each year in keeping the centre running. It coincides with the housing association launching a rebranding exercise.

But the Friends claim that that by leasing out the centre the housing association would be breaking a commitment made in 2005, when it took over the estate from Islington Council.

Following discussions with the Town Hall, Hyde agreed to lease this centre at £1 per year and to allow community groups to keep any income generated from its use. But councillors have called on the social landlord provide grant funding to the centre.

Speaking at the meeting, Holloway ward councillor Paul Smith branded Hyde “corporate pirates”.

“If you look at Hyde’s board of directors now, they are not people with social backgrounds,” he said. “They are people who have worked in the City of London, who have basically organised a corporate takeover.

“These people are corporate pirates. They have taken over a vital asset in our community and we need to take it back. It is a struggle about that.”

Cllr Ward said the residents’ campaign had the “full backing” of Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, adding: “This is a community campaign, the whole community needs to be involved in this campaign.”

David Curtis, who leads the New Wine Ichthus service at the centre on Sundays, said: “Centres are an important part of communities up and down the country. We need to keep fighting to keep the open for the sake of social cohesion.”

Cllr Ward also announced that Elaine Bailey, chief executive of the Hyde Group, has agreed to meet with him to discuss the group’s concerns. Ms Bailey, who joined Hyde in 2014 from outsourcing giant Serco, declined to meet with Ward in November last year.

A spokeswoman for Hyde said: “Like many housing association across the country Hyde has to make cost savings, including to our social investment arm Hyde Foundation and our community centres.

“Following the public consultation we are pleased to say that Ringcross will remain open though it is our intention for this to be under a new management structure, with a lease to a local community organisation.”

A number of staff from Hyde’s community centres team are likely to lose their jobs as part of a restructure. The housing association said it is “supporting individual members of the team as they consider the options available to them”.

 

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