by Phillip Vincent, Action with Communities in Rural England
New restrictions mean that halls will close, except for a limited number of permitted activities.
Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) has issued information for village halls to help them understand the implications of the new nationwide lockdown restrictions which come into force today. All halls are required to close their doors, but a few uses will still be allowed.
The news is a body blow for the voluntary committees who rose to the challenge of putting in place complicated Covid-19 Secure measures over the summer months with support from ACRE Network members to allow their buildings to safely reopen. Many are worried about the loss of income from hiring out their space to local community groups and businesses.
Many of the voluntary committees who manage these buildings will undoubtedly be worried about the future – both in terms of their financial sustainability, but also the welfare of their community.
There are over 10,000 village halls to be found across England. They support a diverse range of community activities from exercise classes to coffee mornings and are routinely hired out for private parties and weddings. Some host community shops and post offices.
In a recent survey undertaken by ACRE, it was found that 60% of village halls provide the only meeting space in the local community. An estimated 50,000 individuals too are reliant on the use of village halls to make a living.
Whilst halls are required by law to close, a few activities are still permitted including use for education, childcare and work purposes, providing food and essential retail activities and to host organised support groups offering mutual aid or therapy.
Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Rural Evidence Village Halls Manager said, “We are working tirelessly to provide support and information to help village halls cope with this second national lockdown which has forced them to shut their doors once again. Many of the voluntary committees who manage these buildings will undoubtedly be worried about the future – both in terms of their financial sustainability, but also the welfare of their community. With uncertainty about the duration of the new restrictions, we will be making the case for continued emergency funding to make sure these important community assets weather the storm”.
The charity is encouraging village halls to contact their local ACRE Network member to obtain copies of the information sheet and get further support. Halls are strongly advised to contact their local authority to apply for Local Restriction Support Grants as these will enable them to keep their buildings heated during the winter months and prevent damage to the building.