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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Break-ins threaten survival of west Cumbrian community centre

Raiders who targeted a community centre in Workington have been condemned by bosses who fear the attacks could put its future at risk.

Oval Centre break-ins phjoto
From left, social enterprises manager Phil Davies, youth and community worker Kelly Johnson, neighbourhood manager Stephen Wilson and centre manager Ross Brown

Police are appealing for anyone with information to come forward after a spate of break-ins at the Oval Centre in Salterbeck. Damage amounting to thousands of pounds has been caused in the attacks.

Phil Davies, social enterprise manager for Impact Housing, which runs the Oval Centre said: “If we can’t sustain the centre financially, we will have to take some tough decisions about its future.

“That will have a huge impact on the community.”

The most recent burglary last week could cost Impact up to £10,000.

Doors that were forced open had only just been replaced following an earlier break-in.

There have been two break-ins since October.

The housing association, which operates as a charity, is having to pay for repairs and additional security measures.

Mr Davies said: “We are trying to do everything we can because we know how important it is to people.

“Things like this threaten the long-term viability of the centre.”

Ross Brown, centre manager, said: “If this was to continue it would undermine the good work that we are doing”.

Following the break-in, cash will no longer be kept on site overnight.

New doors and locks have been fitted and a new alarm system installed.

But if the attacks continue, the team will be forced to consider the introduction of shutters.

Mr Davies said: “We don’t want to have to turn it into Fort Knox because it gives out the wrong impression.”

The break-ins have hit staff morale, with some fearing for their jobs because they know how tight the budget is.

Stephen Wilson, neighbourhood housing manager, said it felt as if someone had broken into his own home.

Kelly Johnson, of the community youth development team, said it was upsetting to staff and centre users.

Lillian Baldry, chairman of Salterbeck Residents’ Association, said she was saddened by the situation.

Impact Housing agreed to take over the centre in October 2012 because of financial pressures faced by its previous management team.

Staff there have had success helping people in Salterbeck to find employment through its work club.

Staff also run youth projects, and they organise community events and give people access to information and benefits.

A recent event there, called The Big Lunch, was attended by more than 350 people.

Impact has spent more than £1 million on housing in Salterbeck over the last year, with investment on repairs, maintenance and energy efficiency.

A police spokeswoman asked anyone with information to call them on 101 or anonymously via Crime-stoppers on 0800 555 111.

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