National survey reveals social and economic benefit of community halls
National survey of community and village halls shows how they bring social and economic benefit to their local area
Earlier in 2020, Action Hampshire supported ACRE in carrying out its ten-yearly survey of community buildings across England. 2,109 organisations replied, with a tremendous 78 in Hampshire. Many thanks to all who took the time to complete the survey. You can access the full report from ACRE’s website but here are some key points.
- Over 60% of respondents said their building was the only public meeting venue in their community
- 88% of the respondent organisations were registered charities, with volunteer trustees overseeing the management and governance
- Volunteers really keep these buildings going – 94% have volunteer maintenance staff, 73% have a voluntary bookings secretary
- Over half have annual running costs of less than £10,000 – they bring a lot of benefit for very little money!
- They bring money into the local economy – with an estimated £350 million spent on improvements over the last 5 years
- Around 50,000 people earn a living from activities and groups they run in community halls, and a further 4,500 people are directly employed by the halls
Many of these buildings need improvement to remain fit for purpose
- Over 50% of the buildings are at least 80 years old
- Many need significant repair or refurbishment – 61% are planning significant improvement works, with a quarter of these expecting to spend £20,000 to £50,000 and another quarter over £50,000
- Car parking is often inadequate – 16% of respondents had no car park at all, another 19% said their parking was too small and / or in bad condition
Recruiting new committee members is also a major issue
- Half of respondents said they regularly have difficulty recruiting new committee members
- Time spent on bureaucracy was a major complaint, on issues such as data protection, health and safety, insurance, and business rate relief
The overall message
Community halls are a vital part of England’s social infrastructure. They provide a place for people to gather for social, leisure, sporting, and health-related activities, as well as for private parties and services like shops, cafes, and post offices.
They are very good value – with most being reliant on community-minded volunteers giving many hours of their time to maintain the building, run the bookings, manage the organisation, apply for grants…
However, they need support from local people and from the public sector – from local councils all the way up to central government. The covid-19 pandemic has, of course, brought fresh challenges to community halls – most had to close for several months and many are still struggling to get back up to full speed. There are many safety procedures to follow for the time being, and people are naturally cautious about returning to their usual activities in community halls.
We’d like to thank everyone who contributes in any way to their community hall – whether that’s by being on the committee, volunteering in some other way, working there, or simply by using your local hall for your event or group.