The One Norbiton-RBK Trial of
Community Halls’ Administration. 1/1/2019 TO 1/1/2021
Jill Preston and Mike D’Souza (One Norbiton)
At the start of 2019 One Norbiton undertook a two-year trial to explore the value of a Community Group looking after the three Norbiton Community Halls on behalf of the Council.
During 2019 the overall use of the three Halls significantly increased and there were over 15% more bookings by new paying organizations. During this first year there was also an associated rise in income for RBK which came to £ 25,801.99 i.e., (over £5,000 more than the contractual payment of £19K paid to One Norbiton.) There was also a marked rise in ‘free’ use by RBK Officers thanks to the new ease of access. If this had been charged for it could have generated a further £800 of income.
Nearly all Users twice reported high levels of satisfaction with the service. Furthermore, One Norbiton met all its social targets by providing new opportunities for the disabled and disadvantaged on the estate to undertake rewarded Volunteering close to their homes. Thus, by all criteria during this first year, this trial was highly successful.
Unfortunately, it was clear that most of this success had been achieved by an unsustainably heavy workload. One Norbiton realized that if it was to continue to work into 2020, it needed to reduce the hours specified by the contract and get more realistic payment. However, the RBK contract that had been constructed by officers previously doing the job, instead specified that the recompense for 2020 should be reduced to just £9,547.96.
Fortunately, senior Officers and Councilors agreed that this arrangement was unfair and should be changed and One Norbiton continued working on the presumption that a fair revision was in place. However, it soon emerged that this revision had been overruled and before any further action the Covid pandemic intervened. This prevented all letting of the halls but despite these stressful circumstances CREst and One Norbiton continued to supervise the Halls and provide essential Food Bank services.
Our conclusions are that, in 2019, this trial showed that a not-for-profit Community organization could manage Community Halls in a very beneficial way for both residents and users at the same time as reducing the Borough budget for this activity by as much as 60%. However, setting this up again would require an imaginative and reasonable administration to frame contracts with realistic terms and not to be tempted to abuse volunteer goodwill by reducing costs below 20% of established rates.