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TD Community Centre LR

A statement presented by Cllr Gill Coates, TD&WGRA Councillor for Hinchley Wood and Weston Green and Portfolio Holder for Community Care in Elmbridge Borough Council  

There is still a huge amount of misinformation circulating about the Thames Ditton Centre. I’m aware that just a few days ago someone was on the About Thames Ditton Facebook page repeating the claim that the Council has plans to sell the site for luxury housing.

Well I cannot say this loudly enough or often enough - there has never been any plan to sell the Thames Ditton Centre. That is a complete invention and whoever started the rumour has caused unnecessary worry and concern to people who use the centre and rely on it for social interaction.

I repeat - there are no plans to close or sell the centre. There never have been.

It is the case, however, that the Council is having to consider how the centre is managed in the future, to ensure that it remains sustainable going forwards. The centre currently costs council taxpayers over £200,000 a year to run and apart from the Dementia Services group (which meets every day) it is only open on Mondays and Thursdays and used for a few hours by Boomerang Bags, Men in Sheds and a handful of other clubs. In all, just 50-60 people a week turn up for these groups. The Council’s Community Support Services are there to help people in need in Elmbridge, not provide a hall-for-hire that is under-used, so they want to find a better way of managing the centre so that a wider range of people come and use it.

The initial idea (suggested by consultants who were engaged to help the Council reimagine its discretionary community support services to meet changing needs) was to explore handing it over to the community for us to run it ourselves on a Village-hall kind of model. Representatives from existing centre users and local community groups were invited to engage with he Council to discuss how this might work. But to date no meaningful proposals have emerged.

However the local Primary Care Network, which is a group of seven local GP practices, has approached the Council with the idea of developing a community Health and Wellbeing Centre together in the centre. This would focus on a range of classes and activities designed to help us all lead healthier lives and improve our mental health. The NHS recognises the value of delivering preventative care in non-medical environments - services that stop problems developing or worsening, like diet and exercise advice to prevent Type 2 diabetes developing, or running social singing groups to help with long Covid. But they also understand the value of working in partnership with others like local Councils who can facilitate completely non-medical interventions like debt counselling sessions and coffee mornings to reduce the root causes of mental health issues and alleviate loneliness and isolation.

All this would be available at a Health & Wellbeing Centre and we could shape the services on offer to meet our local needs.

The existing groups that use the centre on Mondays and Thursdays - Men in Sheds, Boomerang Bags, a T’ai Chi class, an art class and a bridge class/group - are already contributing to alleviating loneliness and building social connections. These would absolutely fit into the ethos of a Health & Wellbeing Centre and they would be encouraged to stay on. They all know this as they have been assured right from the outset that the Council’s priority is to ensure they can enjoy continued use of the centre in whatever form it takes.

But I must stress - no decisions have been made as to how this partnership with the PCN would work in practice and it is does not help for people to speculate and draw erroneous conclusions on the basis of misinformation.

Since February the Council has kept people informed with occasional updates on the website when there is something new to say. As soon as the Council is in a position to provide a further update on progress with the Health and Well-being centre idea, it will be made public and this community will be the first to know.

Gill would be happy to answer your questions and can be contacted on