Monday, 29 July 2013



David Cameron made big play during the last election about his support for local communities. Localism was the buzz word and sure enough, localism is now steaming ahead.

Or is it?

The latest  backing  for localism came this week in a government scheme called Community Cashback offering grants to local groups to start  small services such as grass cutting, cleaning or  property repairs.

Localism gets strong support in Cumbria, mainly though much-admired pioneering work by Mr Rory Stewart, M.P. for Penrith and the Border.

But Carlisle gets no localism. Worse than  that, support for it is in retreat. And that worries community groups which are now struggling to find venues to discuss their problems

Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation and its associated group, Carlisle South Community Association, are typical…. uncertain about how long they will continue to have the use of the friendly Family Church  in Petteril Bank.The two groups have had free use  for about twenty years. But now, the church has closed.

And in nearby Botcherby, a group run by the Federation-Botcherby Forever- is homeless for the second time in not much more than a year because community premises  have  been closed down.

A year ago, Botcherby Forever lost the Crown Social Club which closed. The group`s home since then has been the Botcherby Healthy Living Centre run by a kind and friendly organisation. Now that building has been closed  after more than 30 years as a community centre.

Why is all this happening in Carlisle? Much of the blame lies with  the city`s principal landlord, the giant Riverside Housing Association of Liverpool. Over recent  years, Riverside has closed  down  nearly all the city`s long-established community groups.

Riverside doesn`t like community groups-except its  favourite groups. The favourite community groups get Riverside cash and other support. Other groups  get nothing.

And Riverside is also very commercially-minded  with  its community property . One  property in Welsh Road, Petteril Bank,  has been put on the market.

The centre once was  four council flats. Riverside converted them into a community job creation centre and fitted  it out  with a lavish array of computers. But nothing got off the ground and efforts by community groups to use the centre when it became vacant have been ignored.

Now the centre is empty again. An estate agent`s sign on the property says:”To let for commercial use.”

That  estate agent`s sign, Mr Cameron, says all you need to know about localism in Petteril Bank, Carlisle.

Localism, Mr Cameron?

Have you been kidding?

COMMUNITY VOICE, CARLISLE  is the blog of Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation. Information about the Federation  is included in the first entry of the blog, dated March 25 2013

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