A Community Trust In Handsworth Wood

With the great give away of community assets there is a great wish to try to preserve some control in the hands of local people as local council representation continues to weaken. Local councillors wring their hands. “Nothing can be done” is their cry.

In Birmingham’s Handsworth Wood Ward the City Council announced they were considering a transfer of assets of the hard won Laurel Road Sport Centre. At one time a very modest wooden building was freely available to use until a fire caused by an electrical fault in a vending machine burned it down. Local people supported by there then councillors helped campaign for a new improved rebuild. This was achieved with the help of Sports England with a new brick building and greatly enhanced sporting facilities. It came at a price of greatly reducing the availability of the centre to local people. No the considerable sums spent could just be handed over to a private concern who, if like Sports England, will be interested for a short period. After that anything could happen.

Why not then set up a local Community Trust? I have just learned that one has been set up, but the opportunity to get involved seems obscure. Who is a member of it and how to apply is not “open” and “transparent” as these well worn words, continuously and consistently declared as key to local democracy is not apparent.

Mick Archer, a local political activist, has been asking some pertinent questions and found that such a trust was formed in 2013 as a limited company, with Councillor Gurdial Singh Atwal the lead director. We know it was awarded £10,000 of money from the devolved Community Chest, decisions for the spending of which are in the hands of the three Handsworth Wood Ward Councillors. Mick Archer’s ongoing enquiry is proceeding.

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