The youngsters who use the Castle Club Youth Centre are still turning up. But they’re aware that they will be evicted in one week's time. The reason given is because H&F Council want to sell off the building to realise a £4million windfall as part of its Asset Reduction Strategy.
With £600,000 being equivalent to 1% off Council tax and H&F having the third highest land prices in the country, the Administration knows that it’s sitting on a gold mine and is the reason why it’s closing youth and community centres across the borough.
This sell-off swims in the face a recent report titled Aiming High for Young People: A Ten Year Strategy for Positive Activities. It concludes that local authorities have to provide young people with interesting and fulfilling things to do with their spare time if they want them to do well in life and avoid drifting into crime and anti-social behaviour. H&F Council have also carried out a MORI poll of local people and found that residents want to see more youth facilities not less. It’s not rocket science; most residents I speak with tell me that it’s important to invest in facilities for our young so H&F Council’s sell-off looks more than a little out of tune with local people's views.
It’s also questionable whether H&F Council has the moral right to be able to sell this building. It was originally donated “for the care of the children of Fulham” by Laurence Sulivan in 1855 in memory of his wife. So, it is dubious that its use in the Asset Reduction Strategy is in keeping with the spirit of Mr. Sulivan’s bequest.
The real losers here are the seventy or so young people who enjoy and attend the Castle Club along with the forty five parents using the childcare service run from the site. Many of those are single parents who benefit from the subsidised daily rate to enable them to go out to work.
The club was run under previous Labour and Conservative council administrations. H&F’s current Conservative Administration is set to close it for good on 11th November.