Village hall support network to close after nearly 35 years

Bishopstone Village Hall PNL-151029-124625001
Bishopstone Village Hall PNL-151029-124625001

A national forum which represents volunteers who run village halls is to close after almost 35 years.

The National Village Halls Forum, which has been the voice of around 90,000 volunteers running village and community halls.

Its annual meeting, which was to be hosted by Damien Green MP at Millbank last month was cancelled.

ACRE, the national voice for England’s rural community councils, runs an information and advice service for the country’s 10,000 village halls through its network of dedicated advisers.

The forum said it had relied on the network to facilitate access to village hall committees and for professional support.

It said it was concerned about the reduced support now available, especially as many village hall committees involve older volunteers who had found it difficult to recruit a younger generation.

Forum spokesman, Alan West, chairman of Ringmer Village Hall Committee, near Lewes said: “Volunteers trying to manage, rebuild and improve halls face a very difficult task particularly in raising funds and grants in the current financial climate.”

Mr West said forum representatives met Oliver Letwin MP earlier this year to put the case for enhanced government funding for the ACRE network of advisers and the “excellent information service” provided nationally by the ACRE network.

Mr West added: “While he has written on the subject we are still waiting to hear of any improvement.”

The forum’s grassroots role of lobbying of MPs had achieved a number of important changes that have protected charitable community buildings.

This included the continued zero rating of VAT on the construction of new charitable community halls - achieved in the face of an EC Court Judgement in 1988.

Mr West said this had saved communities throughout the UK millions of pounds.

The forum also helped the work of the ACRE Network in achieving a more appropriate light touch licensing regime for community buildings and retained other essential tax reliefs such as rate relief and reduced waste disposal charges.

Mr West said: “We sincerely hope the Comprehensive Spending Review will bring improved funding for the ACRE Network. It would cost so little for the government to keep this service and the peer support it facilities between halls.

“It is sad that we have to wind up the National Forum before we have achieved important goals that would benefit communities throughout the country.”

For more on the work of the National Village Halls Forum visit www.nvhf.org.uk.

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