Saturday, December 9, 2023

25K Grant For Strutt’s Repairs Rejected By Town Council

Last Tuesday night (13th September) Belper Town Council refused a grant application from Strutt’s Community Centre of £25,000 for remedial work such as decorating, pointing and curtains.

The Grade II listed building on Derby Road, formerly the Herbert Strutt School, is now a leading facility for a wide range of community groups in the town and is a lifeline for many.

When asked about the reasoning behind the refusal of the application, Belper Town Council responded that: “The sum was too large to consider at the time – it would need to be budgeted for and therefore go through the council’s budgeting process. Also, the council considered that the application did not meet its criteria for grants.”

Furthermore they added: “The council requested that the Clerk discuss with the centre, the application and funding needs of the centre with a view to a further application being submitted in the future.”

Whilst the Mayor, Cllr Spendlove and also Cllr Charlton were sympathetic to the application, the vote against making the grant was passed without opposition. Cllr Dan Booth expressed an opinion that Strutt’s could be run as a wedding venue and that an application for money to decorate it – and therefore attract income from weddings – may have more success.

Improvements have been made behind the scenes, but the size of the project means that more funds are required to continue the work. Last year it was estimated that the building would need around £3.5 million for its restoration. Some of this is to be raised from income, but the majority of the sum is to come from external sources.

Cllr Ben Bellamy said: “Frankly, expecting already overworked volunteers to run weddings as well as manning reception, taking bookings, cleaning, planning works, fundraising and the plethora of other things that the volunteers have to do just to keep Strutt’s afloat, is naive and unfair.”

Sue MacFarlane, who was also at the meeting, said: “Unfortunately, there was no-one from Strutt’s to talk through the application before it was considered. There was a very healthy debate before the vote was taken, and it’s a shame the council felt that they couldn’t support the application.”

“The Strutt Centre is a very important part of the life of our town, and it is in need of renovation and updating if it is to continue to serve the community. I would suggest that the people making the application talk to the council about why it was rejected and, if they apply again, that they attend in person to speak to the councillors and ask for support for what they need.”

Nailed have approached the organisers of the Strutt’s Centre and are awaiting a response on the decision.

6 thoughts on “25K Grant For Strutt’s Repairs Rejected By Town Council

  • Cllr Ben Miller Belper South Ward

    I thank you for including in your article the response from the clerk of Belper Town Council as to why the grant application for Strutts Community Centre was turned down at the recent meeting of Belper Town Council.
    Whilst you express opinions from Cllr Bellamy and Sue MacFarlane it is unfortunate that you have not included any comments from any members of Belper Town Council who made the decision and were in full view of all of the facts surrounding the grant application.
    The Clerk is absolutely correct to point out that the sum of monies requested was too large to be considered at an ordinary meeting of the Town Council and that an application of this size, equivalent to roughly 10% of the council’s annual expenditure, would have to be correctly accounted for and included in the council’s annual budget.
    In accordance with the council’s own rules surrounding Grant Aid “Applications for funding of more than £500 should be submitted prior to 1st January of the year of which funding is required”, the application from Strutts Community Centre states that work on the project commenced from August 2016. This led to some confusion among members of the Town Council, including myself, that if work on the project had already begun then what specifically would the funding requested be used for. As Sue rightly observes in her comments it is unfortunate that no one was present at the meeting from the Strutts Centre to talk through the application which may have led to members of the Council being better informed about the application and answer some of the questions raised at the time.
    The Council did resolve however, that although this specific application was turned down, the Clerk contact the Committee from the Strutts Centre, discuss the application with them, address the requirements within the council’s rules surrounding Grant Aid and discuss the specific timeframes required for an application of this size.
    The Strutts Community Centre is in the ward that I represent on the Town Council and is an excellent local facility that I have both used and attended events at. Now I could hark on about the sorry state that Derbyshire County Council left the building in prior to it becoming the asset that it is today but that debate has been run many times and I would sooner concentrate on what the centre needs to keep moving forward which is why Belper Town Council instructed the Clerk to engage with the centre with the view to submitting a further application, of which I would personally welcome.
    May I add that the opinions expressed above are entirely my own.

  • Cllr John Nelson

    I do wish Cllr Bellamy would get his facts right before going to press and social media when he chooses to criticise the Council. Using half-truths and sound bites the way he has done over this matter only creates negative feelings with the people it is intended to help, the people of the Strutts Centre.

    The article goes on to say Cllr Dan Booth expressed an opinion that it could be run as a wedding venue, no, what Cllr Booth actually said was that, if the grant was for a specific project such as if the Strutts Centre wanted to use the venue for weddings for example, he would have looked more favourably on it as this would have helped the Centre create further regular income.

    Belper Town Council support many local organisations through its grant aid. For the year 2015/16 we spent over £70,000 on grants to the community, equivalent to almost 1/3 of the council’s annual precept. We financed over £35,000 towards ongoing SLA’s that the Town Council support including;
    • Fleet Arts
    • CAB
    • Community Transport
    • North Mill
    • Drop Inn

    We have committed £25,000 for Belper’s Blue Box scheme, and although our budget for miscellaneous grants was £5,900 we actually spent over £8,000 in further support for the community. Cllr Bellamy is very eager to criticise the Council at the first opportunity he can, but conveniently remains very quiet about all the good the Town Council are doing.

    The most sensible remarks in the article comes from Sue MacFarlane, who was obviously paying attention to the debate, unlike Cllr Bellamy who chose to hear what he wanted to and not listen to the full story, again.

  • Frank Smith

    As a trustee at Strutts all I can say is this news makes me very sad. We are sorry if our application was imperfect but we do not have the benefit of professional help and have limited time to do anything above keeping the doors open.

    Our volunteers although small in number have made a very positive impact on Belper. We will continue to do our best for all the residents in the town with the limited resources we have. This setback simply means our vision will take a little longer to achieve.

  • Frank Smith

    Sorry I should also have said in my previous post: To the best of my knowledge we were not invited to speak at the meeting.

  • Chris Copeland

    Can someone start a petition against the Council for turning this grant down Strutts is used by many groups including U3A and maybe they have a loud voice that the council might hear.

  • John Morrissey

    It is plain to anyone who goes into the Centre that it is always busy and is patently successful and a clear asset to the town and neighborhood. It is run by a few local volunteers working almost full time (so it seems) for free. These volunteers have even managed to improve the facilities on offer. It’s importance, past and present, earn these volunteers, I feel, the right to be supported by our Councillors rather than see their request for help rejected on internal procedural grounds. George Herbert Strutt’s generosity of a hundred years ago deserves emulation by the town’s current leaders.

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