Scots council to review 'warm bank' programme due to lack of visitors

Some centres failed to register a single attendee after being while others saw a larger uptake.

East Ayrshire Council to review ‘warm bank’ programme due to lack of visitors iStock

East Ayrshire Council’s Warm Spaces programme is to reviewed after it was revealed that two venues failed to get a single visitor.

According to information in the latest East Ayrshire Council performance report, the spaces at the Doon Valley Leisure Centre, the Boswell Centre in Auchinleck, Galston Community Centre, the Treehouse Visitor Centre at Dean Castle Park and the North West Area centre, totalled just five visitors since they were set up as Warm Spaces.

The Treehouse and Doon centres failing to register a single attendee.

As well as the East Ayrshire Leisure (EAL) run warm spaces, there are more than 40 other venues providing similar support across the authority.

The council has spent £223k of the £350k it had allocated to provide financial support to fifty groups.

Of the EAL facilities, only one, Kilmarnock’s Dick Institute, attracted more than 100 people and accounted for almost half of all the 499 visits.

According to the details, the Boswell Centre had just a single recorded visit to the warm space, while the North West Area Centre and Galston Community Centre had two apiece.

Only the Stewarton Area Centre attracted more than 50 visitors. The remaining centres at the Burns House Museum, Crosshouse Library, Cumnock Library, Darvel Town Hall, Morton Hall, the Rose Reilly Sports Centre and Treehouse Visitor Centre

EAC had allocated £270k to the project, of which £122,565 has been spent has been used by East Ayrshire Leisure Trust to set up warms spaces, including furniture, equipment for hot drinks and charging points.

Labour group leader councillor Maureen McKay raised the issue, calling on the cabinet to pause and look at how it was addressing the cost of living.

She said: “Some of the [figures] are giving me some real concern.

“At the North West Area Centre we see how limited the uptake has been.”

Cllr McKay said that she was using the centre as an ‘illustration’ of a situation happening across the authority and pointed out that she had been supportive of the allocations made as part of EAC’s response to the cost of living crisis.

She argued out that £122k of the cost of living money had been spent to set up warm spaces, with just 499 people attending – costing almost £250 per person.

“Is there not a further opportunity to look at the overall approach,” she said. “My concern at the start was that there would be more and more pressure, and we didn’t quite understand where there were coming from.

“It is a new area of work, but we are not hitting the nail on the head of it.

“We need to make sure that is going in the right way. I completely supported the £3m [for cost of living programme] but once it is gone, it is gone.”

Council leader Douglas Reid said that he would consider a pause, provided it didn’t put other elements of the cost of living support in jeopardy.

“The last thing we want to do is withhold money from groups and individuals who really need it,” he added.

Chief executive Eddie Fraser said that the report had already shown that redirection of funds had already been put forward in the report as the council learned what was needed.

He recommended that senior management be given delegated powers to intervene during a pause, if the situation required it.

The cabinet agreed to ask the Governance and Scrutiny Committee to focus on the warm spaces initiative in its scrutiny of the wider East Ayrshire performance report.

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