Elderly residents had hoped a concert would raise money to help save the under threat Goldenhill Community Hall, in Stoke-on-Trent, but they were stunned when “meddling” officials ruled that for health and safety reasons, security was needed to ensure trouble did not break out.
Alma Morris, 78, who had planned the event for the Spring, was told they would not be able to open the bar without paying for security, which would have wiped out their profits.
The former caretaker and council worker said, “I don’t know what they think might happen in a room full of pensioners – it’s ludicrous. We just wanted to put on a nice night of singing until the council got involved. But instead we keep hitting a brick wall and it’s not fair.”
Goldenhill Community Hall is one of 10 centres across the region under threat of closure to save the council £162,000-a-year. Officials have pledged to support residents in their attempts to take over the halls.
Ms Morris, who has worked at the community centre for 11 years, said that the latest decision has had the opposite effect, as security guards would almost double the £120 cost of booking the venue. Branding the decision “ridiculous” she pointed out that the money to pay security guards for their “easiest shift ever” would come directly out of peoples’ pockets.
Eric Jankowski, 82, said he had been “excited” about the event, adding, “Now it seems that some jobsworths are, as usual, spoiling the party. It’s such a shame that people don’t seem to have any common sense anymore.
“It’s not about ticking boxes but making a sensible decision. A load of OAPs in their 70s and 80s are hardly likely to go wild are they? We just want to have fun like everyone else.”
Another resident who tried to book a 40th birthday party was also told he would need security, leading to calls for officials to apply more common sense. Tom Simpson, 55, secretary of Sandyford and Goldenhill Residents’ Association, said, “If they were organising drunken booze-ups then I could understand but not with fund-raising events like this one. I think the council needs to consider every event on merit and it is hard to fathom why they have to pay extra for security.”
The bar staff at the hall are all city council employees. The council are now investigating the matter. Peter Price, the council’s resident director of services, said a final decision on the security guards would be taken after looking over the profit and loss margin in the coming months.
Speaking about the closures, he added, “We need to establish whether community halls are going to be financially sustainable for the future. In times of financial hardship, the funding that we have as a city council will mean we have to go through some very difficult decisions.”