Councillors have welcomed what they believe are fairer plans to deal with the future of community halls.

Officials had set out options for a number of halls up and down South Ayrshire in 2018, aimed primarily at saving money. This included some halls closing and others being transferred to community associations.

Some centres still face uncertainty. However, Jamie Tait, of the council’s Thriving Communities service, said that the focus has moved to ‘finding what is also best for each community’.

Having been disrupted by the pandemic, Mr Tait said that the future of the vast majority of the halls under review will be decided by next March.

The delay has meant that many existing groups have not been able to meet for a long time, while a number of new associations have formed in the interim.

Two, he said, had only met for the first time in the last couple of weeks.

Mr Tait stressed that no decision would be taken until he had chance to speak to them formally.

While funding was cut from a number of halls, SAC said it has been covering energy and maintenance costs, sourcing money from elsewhere in its budget.

Mr Tait said: “Although we are trying to get consistency across South Ayrshire, we need to recognise that each centre is very unique, depending on where they are based, how the group is run and how the centre is managed.

“Over the last six months officers we have been working with the groups, first of all, to get them back in the centres.

“We have also been working alongside new committees that have just been established.

“Some have only met for first time in 18 months and others have established new commiteees.

“I am keen to work alongside groups to get the best approach for them and for us as a council.

Depute council leader, Councillor Brian McGinley welcomed this change in approach.

He said: “I am very pleased to hear that this is not just a savings exercise and has turned towards community focus and community needs.”

Cllr McGinley added that the change in approach tied in with the council’s local place planning work.

“This is absolutely right and Icommend the approach that involved the local members in these discussions.

“It is not about finding a systemic approach, it is about making sure they meet the needs and aspirations of the local communities.

“If that brings savings and new ways of working then that is absolutely the right approach.”

Council leader, Councillor Peter Henderson, also praised the approach, but asked for guarantees that Mr Tait’s department would continue to adopt this flexible approach.

Mr Tait reiterated that do decision could be taken with discussing the situation with local groups.

He said: “We had a couple of groups who only met last week for the first time. We went out, met with them and will meet again.

“We do want to come back by February with the majority of these resolved.

“There are a couple of other centres where we had said ‘this is the recommendation’ where we have been able to identify new lets.

“It is a different way of working for halls and for committees.
Cllr Henderson responded: “I am delighted at the approach you are taking.

“This is something that has been outstanding for quite a while and have to address going forward.”

Councillor William Grant explained that the McCandlish Hall in Straiton was an example of this approach. He said: “I was very pleased to hear that it isn’t cast in stone.

“A new committee has been formed, a lot of new people moved into the village and are keen to get up and running and help the people who have been there longer and get the hall operational. ”

The plan to make cuts and savings of just over £81k was revealed in the 2018/19 budget.

A report to the Leadership Panel stated: “It is anticipated that savings will be identified through reduced running costs for community centres and village halls through the new hall management arrangements.”

A full list of the halls under review and the current status can be found below.

Ivy Cottage and Men’s Cabin, Troon –  Ivy Cottage Committee are considering the proposed lease arrangement.

  • Troon Scout Hall – Lease agreed
  • Prestwick Community Centre – Prestwick Community Association have signed lease agreement and will be responsible for heating, electricity bills and internal works.
  • Prestwick 65 Club – Lease to be signed
  • Heathfield Community Centre – Lease signed
  • Lochside Community Centre – Lease continued. Lets taken on from John Pollock Centre and Foresters Hall.
  • Foresters Hall – Community Association folded – final decision in March
  • Kincaidston Pavilion, Ayr – No further action
  • Loudon Hall – Discussions ongoing
  • Montgomery Hall, Dundonald – Reopened with lets while discussions continue.
  • Loans Village Hall – Funding ended and community set to take over full costs. Still to finalise end date.
  • Carvick Webster, Monkton – Agreed to end lease and cease funding. SAC supporting group to access other funds to manage and cover costs.
  • Crosshill CC – SAC working with new committee before final recommendation in spring 2022
  • Kennedy Hall, Dunure – Lease to be amended to reflect new store in Kennedy Park.
  • Claude Hamilton, Coylton – Discussion regarding lease and community asset transfer.
  • Ballantrae CC – Centre remains closed. Awaiting legal info regarding title deeds. More discussions required.
  • Colmonell CC – Community Association now cover costs for water and sewage and any internal work. Heating and electricty continue to be covered by SAC.
  • Dailly CC – Dailly Community Association failed to meet to discuss options with the council. Will remain closed until discussions take place.
  • Girvan CC – Lease in place for parts of the building. Continues to be let. Creetown Initiative carrying out feasibility study. Update March.
  • Glendoune CC – Continue with lease and support local group.
  • Barr CC – Supporting Community asset transfer, ongoing discussions
  • Pinwherry CC – Community asset transfer complete. Seeking approval to declare site surplus – once new building is ready the old building will close.
  • Barrhill CC – No further action.
  • Richmond Hall – Building has been sold.