Agenda item

Petition - St Mary's Community Centre, Byfleet WBC24-010.


The Council was presented with a petition which asked the Council to reject the proposed plan to relocate the Elderly Day Care Facilities and fully consult with local residents on any future proposals regarding to St Mary's Community Centre, Byfleet.  The number of signatures exceeded the threshold required for a petition to be referred to a meeting of Council and accordingly the Petitioner had been invited to present the petition at the meeting of Council.

The petition had been submitted in the following terms:

“St Mary's Community Centre in Byfleet has been a haven for our elderly, frail, and vulnerable residents.  The day care facilities include care and assistance from support staff, hot drinks and a hot midday meal, social and gentle exercise activities, and a return journey on the accessible Bustler bus.

The services are vital in ensuring their well-being and social integration in our multigenerational community space.  In addition, the community centre is more than just a facility; it represents familiarity and comfort for its users who have built relationships with staff members and other users of the building including families and children over the years.

A sudden change in environment can be detrimental especially for those suffering from cognitive and physical impairments such as dementia and visual impairments.  We, the undersigned, are opposed to the proposed relocation of the Elderly Day Centre Facilities away from St Mary's Community Centre, Byfleet. We call on Woking Borough Council to:

1.       Reject the proposed plan to relocate the Elderly Day Care Facilities; and

2.       Fully consult with local residents on any future proposals regarding to St Mary's Community Centre, Byfleet”

The Petitioner spoke in support of the services currently provided at St Mary’s Centre, arguing that the plans to relocate services were insufficient and that the users did not want to use other venues.  The proposed date of 31 March 2024 for changes to the Centre was considered unreasonable and it was emphasised that the Centre was at the heart of the local community.

The Members of the Council were invited to ask questions of the Petitioner to provide clarification on the concerns and proposals of those who had supported the petition.  It was noted that a number of community groups had expressed an interest in running services from the Centre including a café based on the current service.  However, it was felt that the deadline of 31 March 2024 was too short and that a longer transfer period would be needed, allowing time for the community to raise funds and apply for grant schemes.

The Mayor thanked the Petitioner for her presentation.

The Council moved to the debate, with the Portfolio Holder explaining the background to the position the Council was in and the direction that the Authority could not continue to fund non-statutory services, including the Borough’s community centres.  The Council was seeking to mitigate the impact on residents and was working with partners including Byfleet United Charities and local Churches.  Reference was made to the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) policy which the Council had been quick to draw up and the Portfolio Holder confirmed that funding of £140,000 had been committed to ensure the Centre could remain open while the CAT arrangements were put in place. 

A number of Members expressed sympathy with those who would be affected by the proposals, suggesting that the Council should allow more time for the community to develop proposals to retain services at the Centre in the future.  With this in mind, Councillor Boote moved and Councillor Brown seconded a motion to have the effect of excluding St Mary’s from the proposals before the Council or providing an additional three months from 31 March 2024 onwards to enable the Community to put in place new arrangements.  Councillor Boote suggested that the cost of the proposal would be in the region of £25,000 together with utility costs.

The Members debated the motion, with the Leader of the Council drawing attention to the fact that the proposals had been considered at a Member briefing, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the Executive, at which concerns had not been raised.  The point was made that further information would be required before the Council could make a decision such as retaining the services for an additional three months.

Before moving to the vote, the Chief Executive clarified that the Council would need to vote on whether they welcomed the ambition of the petition.  If supported, a proposal would be brought to the next meeting of Council, on 4 March 2024, which would include the implications of extending the services at St Mary’s beyond 31 March 2024.

On this basis, the Mayor advised that, in accordance with Standing Order 10.8, the motion to support the petition and bring a proposal to the next meeting of Council would be put to a vote.  The names of Members voting for and against were recorded as follows:

In favour:                                Councillors H Akberali, T Aziz, A Boote, J Brown, G Cosnahan, K Davis, S Dorsett, S Hussain, A Javaid, D Jordan, L Lyons, S Mukherjee, S Oades and T Spencer.

Total in favour:                       14

Against:                                  None

Present not voting:                 The Mayor and Councillors A-M Barker, W Forster, P Graves, S Greentree, I Johnson, A Kirby, R Leach, C Martin, L Morales, J Morley, E Nicholson, L Rice, D Roberts and M Sullivan.

Total present not voting:        15

The motion were therefore carried by 14 votes in favour and no votes against.


That the petition be welcomed and a proposal be brought to the meeting of Council on 4 March 2024 exploring the possibility of extending the services of St Mary’s Centre beyond 31 March 2024 to provide additional time for local community organisations interested in providing future services at the Centre.

Supporting documents: