The Orchard Club negotiations not bearing fruit?

Bett Midler Says it all…

All over “Your Waverley” old people’s centres and services are suffering in one way or another.

The under-funded voluntary sector has struggled to exist for years under the guiding hand of “Your Waverley.” The Gostrey Centre in Farnham – where the building/kitchens and facilities have been allowed to go Pot due to its  entanglement in   Farnham’s East Street fiasco.  Now it is  destined to be sent packing to  the town’s Memorial Hall!

Farncombe Day Centre has been  forced to accept a costly new lease, The Clockhouse in Milford has had grant money withdrawn, and the Rowlys Day Centre in Cranleigh is struggling to keep afloat. Age UK Waverley had all its funding withdrawn and has now closed its doors for good and now ….

 Haslemere’s Orchard Club for the elderly at the Haslewey Community Centre has given notice to  quit its current base, as a proposed rent increase in a new  lease would leave it bankrupt.

Is it any wonder that the elderly are feeling angry and vulnerable. Perhaps Jenny Else the new ~Portfolio Holder for Health & Wellbeing can step in and help?

The club, which has existed  at the community centre since the building  opened in 2003, says it is looking for new premises in the town because negotiations with the owners of the building, Haslewey’s board of trustees, have broken down over a licence agreement which allowed The Orchard Club to occupy the building opposite Lion Green for just £1 per year. The licence includes the use of the cafe, kitchen, kitchen manager’s office and main Orchard Club office for which  the  club pays Haslewey around £18,000 a year.

The Club says the board has,  declined to meet them for face-to-face discussions to find a way forward since March last year  so it has given notice to  leave on  March 31, 2017.
Orchard Club manager Hilary Owen told The Haslemere Herald: “The people who use the club are our friends.“It is important from our prospective that we get our message to all our users, staff and volunteers that we will continue if we cannot use this building. As things stand at the moment, Haslewey has accepted our notice of termination.”
A copy of a letter from the board of Haslewey trustees to users, and leaked to The Herald, says the centre runs at a loss of around £20,000 per year and the £1 arrangement “is no longer sustainable” – despite room lettings being at an all-time high.
The letter said: “We are a community centre, Haslewey is not grant-funded and relies entirely on room hire for income. Room rates are competitive. If we were to increase our room rental rates to other users, this would be uncompetitive with other local venues thereby putting Haslewey at risk.”
Haslewey, which advertises itself as a “community centre for all ages” which underwent a major refit and redecoration last year says it will continue to run a cafe  and activities for the elderly,  while the Orchard Club says it will also run a cafe along with its activities for the elderly wherever it is located.
The Haslewey letter also said: “We hope some grant monies will become available to us, but if that is not to be, then we will seek other ways to ensure the long-term viability of the dining area.
“In accordance with Haslewey’s charitable objectives, the board will ensure that many activities available for the elderly currently will continue to be offered and that there will be a welcoming and harmonious atmosphere for all.”

WW – “doesn’t sound too harmonious to us.”

Ms Owen said  the £1 peppercorn rent paid to Haslewey was agreed when  the club took over the running of the cafe, which had been running at a loss in 2006. It now makes a profit, helping the club pay its way.
The club receives a grant of around £52,000 from Waverley Borough Council, to run as a day centre for elderly people, who join for free and enjoy services such as bingo, fitness, yoga, art and computer sessions and subsidised classes along with outings and reduced prices at the Wey Terrace and Cafe.
The Club says the council is “fully aware of the current situation” and will work in close partnership with it  to maintain services throughout this period.
She said:  “Our funding will continue and Waverley Borough Council are supporting us in our search for new premises locally. In the meantime it’s business as usual.
Ms Owen and Orchard Club chairman Philip Currie, said: “It is with great regret that The Orchard Club confirms it has had to serve notice that it will be leaving Haslewey Community Centre in a year’s time.
“The Haslewey Community Centre was built as an all-age community centre and as the home of The Orchard Club (formerly Age Concern) since its opening in 2003.
“The Haslewey premises are owned and operated by an independent charity, the Haslemere and District Community Centre (HDCC) – the Orchard Club paying annual fees for its occupancy.
“For the past 12 months, The Orchard Club has been in deliberations with HDCC to renew its licence. However, this has not proved possible due to the terms and conditions offered by HDCC to The Orchard Club.
“The licence HDCC is requiring the Orchard Club to sign is unacceptable for any organisation.
“It contains clauses whereby the licence can be terminated by HDCC with immediate effect, at its absolute discretion, without any reason, without any appeal process and where occupation fees can be increased by any amount.
“In addition, HDCC is requiring a doubling in occupation fees with an increase of around £20,000 pa. “This increase  would immediately result in The Orchard Club trading at a loss and it would eventually be bankrupt.” “This unfortunate and unsatisfactory state of affairs is despite HDCC stating at the outset of discussions that renegotiation of the licence renewal would be on ‘mutually agreeable terms’ with the licence fee increase being inline with inflation.
“Sadly, the only plausible option is for us to terminate our association with Haslewey and seek alternative accommodation in the town. When we do move please be assured we aim to continue to offer the full range of activities and cafe facilities to our members and customers, continuing with our existing staff, our excellent team of volunteers and in partnership with Waverley Borough Council.”
The news comes a week after The Herald reported the Meals on Wheels services in the borough are now also under threat.

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