Dundee City Council has been accused of letting a well-used community centre and library “wither on the vine” after moving forward with plans which it’s claimed could lead to its closure.
This week, the authority’s policy and resources committee voted 15 votes to 11 to hold a public consultation on housing community centres in city schools, with Kirkton selected as the potential testing ground.
However a number of councillors raised concerns the proposals may lead to the closure of Kirkton Community Centre and Library.
Under the plans, St Paul’s RC Academy and Baldragon Academy would replace the facility and house the library as well as provide a meeting place or base for activity and sports groups, prevention and early intervention services.
It is understood Kirkton was chosen as the first area to look at because its high levels of deprivation mean the margins for success could be bigger than in other areas, but there are plans to also look at such proposals in the Fintry and Charleston areas as well.
Councillor Kevin Keenan said: “I am disappointed this paper looks to letting the community centre wither on the vine when I, a few months ago, wrote to the people of Kirkton to say there was no intention of closing it.
“This paper seems to have it written all through it.”
Councillor Donald Hay also asked if this would lead to the closure of all libraries in the future, and he was told no.
It is estimated such a plan would save the council £124,126 and mean it could avoid paying £249,538 in maintenance on Kirkton Community Centre.
Representatives from both the GMB and Unite unions spoke out against the proposals at the meeting, saying staff who may be affected by these proposals had not been consulted before the paper came to the council committee.
Stuart Fairweather from Unite said: “I am worried about the future of library services in these areas and I think some people reading the wording of the report will think Kirkton Community Centre is likely to close.”
Councillor Michael Marra added the trade unions, Leisure and Culture Dundee and the Catholic Church had not been consulted on the proposals.
A number of councillors also questioned whether it was right to discuss such plans during the coronavirus pandemic.
Councillor Margaret Richardson said: “Given the Covid-19 crisis and the fact we have a huge amount of efforts in place to keep teachers and staff safe, is this the right time to look at increasing footfall in schools?
“This is not the right time and it should be put back until a post-Covid 19 period.”
Meanwhile Councillor Anne Rendall disagreed and said: “This is exactly the right time to look at this.
“The schools are places people can get to within 20 minutes so it is a good thing, and we cannot go back to business as usual.”
Councillor John Alexander, leader of the council, said every councillor had agreed to look at these proposals back in August 2019 and said the aim was to look at how to better use the “fantastic” properties the council owns.
The public consultation will run from now until the end of the year.