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POSITIVE-NETWORK Public Meeting 27th February 2019 :The Future of Taylor Road

During a packed meeting POSITIVE-NETWORK members addressed their local MP, Siobhain McDonagh, who had arrived straight from the House of Commons, after the latest Brexit vote, 27th February 2019.

POSITIVE-NETWORK Campaign Coordinator Francis  felt it necessary to acquaint Ms McDonagh, with what this Community organisation does and its various User Groups, via  Photographic images and a Presentation. This was because Ms McDonagh, at the previous week’s User-Group, Delegation meeting from POSITIVE-NETWORK, Taylor Road, appeared to be surprised by the share diversity of both Asian and African Caribbean, faith and Non-faith groups, using the Community Centre. This User-Group, Delegation from POSITIVE-NETWORK, Taylor Road, took place, at the Council buildings, 21st February 2019. For the first time and rather belated, Ms McDonagh requested a list of groups, which the Council is due to evict, within a matter of weeks.

The POSITIVE-NETWORK 's User Groups stated, to MP Siobhain McDonagh, that, "We strongly  object to being the subject of a barrage of Local Authority misinformation, used to cynically justify our eviction". Given that POSITIVE-NETWORK, threatened with closure, was NOT being funded by Merton Council, while other Merton Charities were being supported with to up to £300, 000 Grants, Delegates also asked their MP, "What are you doing to support the diverse communities, in the Borough?" Visibly angry, Ms McDonagh refused to  respond, to this question, only requesting the User Group list.

On the evening, Wednesday 27th February, Ms McDonagh arrived late from her House of Commons Brexit vote, to the POSITIVE-NETWORK Public Meeting, to decide its future. Following apologies for her delay, the MP for Mitcham appeared to contradict herself, when she raised the issues of structured repayments for rent arrears, in relation to Merton Council's intention to close the Community Centre. When it was stated that not only had the Merton Council legally agreed to structured re-payments, but POSITIVE-NETWORK were currently paying in excess of that which was being demanded, the MP Then claimed the reason why POSITIVE-NETWORK was being evicted was not actually financial.

Chair of the evening, Pauline Dawkins then shocked many in the audience,  by declaring that, "Not only was POSITIVE-NETWORK not funded by Merton Council, but it was  a Voluntary  sector Charity, being made to pay the highest rent of any Charity, in the Borough!" . She asked Ms McDonagh to account for these facts, which had persisted for the past 15 years. "Why is POSITIVE-NETWORK, a Registered Charity, providing luncheon clubs and care services to a divers community, effectively paying a commercial rent? This injustice was made worse by the fact that one  of POSITIVE-NETWORK's, softly spoken founding Committee Members, Joan Aubee, reminded the meeting that Merton council had always had its sights set set on the building, since it launch."It looks a though we were set up to fail. With no funding and a commercial rent. It was almost A guarantee that we would always be struggling", said Chair Pauline Dawkins.

To a hushed and surprised audience.. Ms McDonagh revealed that the Council believed that it had the power to, "'Hand-over' the Members of POSITIVE-NETWORK", to an un-named, "African Caribbean Pastor and Church". This was despite the fact the Merton Council are merely a landlord of the premises, and do not fund POSITIVE-NETWORK, as an independent Charity. One attendee asked,  what credentials did this pastor posses, and whether he/she had as many years of experience in community centre manage or day centre service delivery, as POSITIVE-NETWORK 's director Grace Salmon? Ms McDonagh MP, admitted that she had no further details, and would make enquiries. Others questioned, whether it was the Councils plan, all along, to oust POSITIVE-NETWORK, installing another organisation, whom they could control, as and when they wanted to sell or develop the building and its land in Taylor Road?

Despite the local MP stating that, "The Council no longer wants POSITIVE-NETWORK's land to build flats."

She was however challenged by one of the leaders of the Asian Community Luncheon Club Musa Rrazvi, who stated that there were documents, within the public domain clearly setting out development plans for Taylor Road, as part of Merton Councils -  2020 PLAN.

The MP raised issues about  POSITIVE-NETWORK's governance, quoting the Voluntary Services Council Report, completed some three years previously, that was apparently, "... So damning that the Report had to be abandoned..."  Paul Hayward Treasurer of POSITIVE-NETWORK, then revealed to an increasingly incredulous audience, that the Account was sent by MVSC, to provide an 'Independent Evaluation', on behalf of the Council, and had only abandoned the Evaluation, after POSITIVE-NETWORK refused to hand over £3, 000, to the Accountant in advance. When questioned as to why POSITIVE-NETWORK'S was being asked to pay for a supposedly 'Independent Evaluation', requested by Voluntary services Council, Ms McDonagh stated that she pays for her own Accountant, so why shouldn't POSITIVE-NETWORK?

An Audience member questioned whether advance payment would have resulted in a more favourable Report? POSITIVE-NETWORK Treasurer, Paul Hayward explained to the packed audience, that POSITIVE-NETWORK had indeed accepted the recommendation several years ago, to deploy the highly rated  financial  accounting programme QUICK BOOKS, "Which we are still using, which improved our accounting systems", and was puzzled as to why the Council were using this out-dated criticism. It was further stressed that, since this time, POSITIVE-NETWORK had been completely abandoned by Merton Council itself, refusing to respond to correspondence and document hand-overs, by POSITIVE-NETWORK.

Two of the most senior POSITIVE-NETWORK Members Agnes and Marvin Stephens and members of the public0 all made dignified and emotional pleas to the MP, to bring the Council to the table, with POSITIVE-NETWORK, to address any ongoing concerns which they might have about the organisation, and to give them time to rectify these, it they still existed.

It was quite fitting that as the meeting dispersed that a young man called Murphy, from the Domino group, stated that, "The Council are fully aware but slow to credit us for, never bringing police 'to the door' of the POSITIVE-NETWORK Community Centre, ... in over 15 years at Taylor Road, and in safeguarding against  the violence, which is sadly rife within our community " . He stated," This is not an accident, we've worked hard at this". Even local neighbours who are also centre users, and came out in a show of support, commented that, "Although noise, will always need monitoring and had been an issue in the past, is now Considerably reduced" .

If this centre is taken away there will be an increase in loneliness to our tolerable clients. We have more that 100 vulnerable clients using the centre per day.

These clients will be at risk of going into homes which will be a huge costs to tax payers.  They will lose the friendship circle which will be detrimental to their well being.

Testimonial

My mother attends Positive Network Centre (Taylor road in Mitcham, Surrey) and she has done weekly for the last 7 years.

It is the only time when she can leave the house and meet up with other elders and talk, eat,  exercise, pray and all the many other things that the devoted Center manager Grace can think of doing with them.

I too go along with my children and in the pass have attended days out, holidays and many Christmas parties, but have also used the center for vocal training and studio time, drama production and careers advice.

The centre is not only used for the elders but other local communities use it too for church, funerals, weddings, weekly group meetings.

The list goes on it can therefore be regarded as a community hub and over the years many people have passed through this place.  There is a wealth of heritage in this place and it breaks my heart to think that the council want to close it down to build flats.

This is something very close to my heart so I’m therefore requesting that you help to support the campaign to stop the closure.

Francis

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