Last month, I visited the Westway Centre during an open house they held to explain the financial difficulties they are facing. The meeting was packed and there was obviously huge concern that this fantastic community asset might not be able to survive.
That same day I received a letter from a GP, requesting that the council do all it can to help the Westway and to enable it to become self-sustaining for the furture. The GP said:
"As a GP with experience in prevention and public health, I know only too well how vital community centres are to the health and wellbeing of local people. Having had the privilege to visit many such centres across the south east in the last 18 months, I know that the Westway is an absolute jewel in the crown for Surrey – an exemplar we all have much to learn from."
I would like to emphasise that the council is totally committed to doing all we can to ensure the Westway's survival and is working to help it secure the essential additional funding it urgently needs. The centre provides crucial health and social care support, likely to become all the more needed as the cost of living crisis bites.
The council has provided funding and support for the operating costs of the charity since October 2019, when the Westway charity was first set up. The charity's aim was to find additional ways of generating income to become self-sufficient. This has been difficult due to the pandemic and, more recently, the significant increases in energy and other costs.
We are changing the long-term lease to add more flexibility and security so that the charity can have confidence to go forwards while it sources further income. We've also been able to find another grant to help with costs.
While the centre has manged to secure some smaller funding bids, it needs more support from a wider range of stakeholders to contribute to the running costs.
We are working with our partners in health and at Surrey County Council (the authority responsible for adult social care) and hope that they will come forward now to help with some long term funding. Without the care the Westway provides, the pressure will be on them to fill the gap and it is in the interests of all that the charity should be able to continue its wonderful work.
Last word to the GP:
"I have been particularly impressed by the nimble responsiveness of the centre to the challenges of the pandemic and have no doubt – if able to continue – that the Westway would step up to the plate and help mitigate the huge potential human costs anticipated this autumn and winter in association with the cost of living crisis."
If you have any comments/questions, please get in touch at cllr.Catherine.Sayer@tandridge.gov.uk.
Councillor Catherine Sayer is the council leader and leader of the Independents and OLRG Alliance, which runs the council with a minority administration.
(Above: Cllr Catherine Sayer)