Council rental charges leave groups in limbo

Hamilton community and sporting groups are being left in financial limbo because of council delays in explaining the cost of new rental charges.

Dissatisfaction with the council's new community occupancy policy was aired at the council's community forum subcommittee yesterday, with one councillor saying not enough was being done to explain the new costs.

Senior groups using the council's Celebrating Age Centre on Victoria St have been vocal critics of the policy, claiming the new rental charges were unaffordable. The policy comes into effect on January 1.

Councillor Dave Macpherson said some community and sporting groups were still unclear what their new rental fees would be.

He said one sporting group he was involved with had held initial talks with the council about the new rental charges but received no follow-up information.

"My group has activity starting in October and we need to know what the final costs are but we haven't heard back what they are," he said.

"We've [council] known about this policy for many months and, from the point of view of a community organisation trying to set budgets, this is too late. You're well into everyone's financial year."

In reply, the council's community general manager, Lance Vervoort, said informing groups of the rental costs was a "top priority".

Staff would also report back to councillors in May or June next year to detail the impact of the community occupancy policy on community groups.

Meanwhile, the sub-committee discussed changes to the role of council's community advisers and the rationale behind the moves.

A staff report noted the centralising of community advisers had caused concerns the level of services they provided would decrease.

Council community development and leisure manager Deanne McManus-Emery said community advisers were previously involved in "a lot of nice things".

The intention was for them to focus on more "targeted and measurable" activities.

Councillor Leo Tooman said the council was in the habit of changing things to be trendy.

Having community advisers spread out over the city, rather than centralised, allowed them to form patch ownership which was "not a bad thing", Tooman said.

In another agenda item, the community forum subcommittee was advised of the funding allocations made by council's small grant (community) allocation committee.

The small grant community fund gave $362,000 to 102 applicants in the past financial year.

Macpherson said he had difficulty with the fact some large organisations received funding when in reality they could cover their own costs.

Allocation committee chairwoman Sarah Gibb sympathised with Macpherson and believed the eligibility policy needed to be looked at.

Waikato Times