Mini-GB? We can have the Big Society, if we pay for it … twice!

I’d love to host a Mini-GB style event at my local village hall – or “Civic Centre” as the branding now proclaims. A weekend full of gaming systems and computers from the past 35 years, coupled with a range of game design workshops to compliment the playing utilising the centre’s “ICT” (lord I HATE that acronym) suite.

Seems giving something to the community is harder than I expected. I remember David Cameron talking about “The Big Society” and “empowering communities, redistributing power and fostering a culture of volunteerism”. It seems when it comes to public funding, being a volunteer is the worst position possible. I’ve touched on this before in posts here and here, but there is just NO money available to support you if you want to give up your own time and expenses to give something back to the community. It seems ridiculous doesn’t it? People and their time is generally the most expensive thing in any endeavour, and costs the same every time you employ it. Buying equipment and kit has an initial cost but this depreciates over time and is more cost effective the more it is used. So someone giving up their own time should be a massive priority and asset for publicly funded enterprises.

To put this into context about our own “Civic Centre” – which apparently benefitted from a £1.2m overhaul about 10 years ago to “create a modern state-of-the-art; multi-purpose community building that is one of the largest of its kind in Nottinghamshire”. Well, that is brilliant if its thriving and bustling with activities and events for the local people that no doubt funded it …. erm, yes. The events page tells a different story – two main events in as many months, and the usual keep fit, dancing classes and weight watching that are paid events. We’ll get back to that.

So, the trustees agree I can deliver the event, as long as I pay for PAT testing and fund my own insurance because their own doesn’t cover “(that) type of event”. I’ve three other chaps willing to give up their time for the weekend, and no doubt families will get involved to organise other things and help setup, tear-down etc. This equates to a considerable amount of money, as well as having to find the £100-£200 PAT and insurance. If the trustees funded the “right” type of insurance and used their council contacts to have my kit PAT tested I’m sure that the whole event would be cost neutral for them – in fact they’d get bloody good value for money. Aside from the money, it’d be an event that would appeal to a different section of the community outside of the usual village fete stuff, and of course provide some educational content of significant value from the workshops.

The centres costs the taxpayer £70,000 to run, and as with most public centres, they’ve been given massive investment into the building and equipment and pays a salary to a full-time manager and 4 part-time members of staff with no thought to content. Where is the taxpayers value for money? Why invest in such a centre without a clear directive to deliver value for money and make use of “ICT” suites instead of them being sat idle? Why after just ten years since £1.2m of cash does the whole centre have to be “re-developed”? Instead of asking for “support of local residents and businessess (sic) to support the building by attending events or hiring rooms” – what about facilitating local residents to run one?

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