Richmond council has approved emergency funding plans to keep the White House Community Centre in Hampton open.

The centre includes a pre-school, food bank, citizens advice centre and mental health support charity, and was run by the YMCA before it withdrew most of its provision last year.

This left the Hampton-on-Thames Community Association to run most of the activities and services.

The council offered the community association two months of emergency funding, worth £3,400 in total, to keep the centre open from December until February this year.

At last week’s meeting [January 15] the council approved up to six months further funding until the end of July 2020.

At a rate of £1,700 per month, this would amount to £10,200 and will be used to pay staff and keep the building open.

However, the community centre has since revised its estimates on income expected from bookings at the centre, and says even with the council’s funding it expects to have a monthly deficit.

The Community Association may choose to give notice on the lease to the council at any time.

The building also requires repairs, budgeted between £10,000-£20,000.

The council hopes to improve the centre’s provision in the future, and conducted a survey in autumn 2018 to understand which changes the community wants to see.

It says the emergency funding is needed to stabilise the current situation at the White House.

In the long-term, the council says it will look at “a new vision” for the whole site to include the White House, Youth Centre and Tangley Park Children’s Centre.

Conservative Councilor, Aphra Brandreth, who recently ran as the Conservative candidate for Kingston and Surbiton in December’s General Election, said she was “concerned there seems to be quite a lot to do” by July this year, when the YMCA will also withdraw its pre-school and catering commitments.

She questioned whether the plans were feasible.

Officer Mandy Skinner acknowledged the scale of the work, but said she was “optimistic” it can be done in the time frame.

Cllr Michael Wilson, lead member for the voluntary sector at Richmond Council, said: “The White House is a valued local resource.

"We are committed to is working with stakeholders and the community to explore and plan for the medium- and longer-term future of the White House.  The White House needs to be a place that offers activities for a range of ages to meet local need. The centre needs to be sustainable, flexible, and offer spaces for local people and organisations to use.

“We know that continuity is important and recognise that the Nursery Pre-School early years provision, Off the Record (support for children and young people), Citizens Advice surgeries and Foodbank are valued by local people. We also are seeking greater links to the nearby Youth Centre and Children, Family Centre and other places in neighbouring area of community use and benefit. The Council is committed to ongoing engagement with the Hampton community as part of this work.”

Progress will be reported at the next meeting in April 2020.