£4.5m youth centre The Hub in Barnard Castle faces cash challenge to keep going
A £4.5million youth centre facing a huge deficit is broadening its remit to remain viable.
The TCR Hub in Barnard Castle is opening itself up to the wider community and slashing costs in a bid to stay open.
“We’ve got a massive challenge on,” said new Hub manager Andy Yeadon.
“The place is losing a huge amount of money – a lot based on the fact that it is a very big building with huge overheads.
“This is ambitious, big and exciting, but it comes at quite a cost.”
Designed as a youth centre, the Hub was never going to make money, said Mr Yeadon. But cuts in youth funding of up to 50 per cent by Durham County Council have left it floundering.
“I think people need to know it is tens of thousands of pounds that it is running at a loss. Because we have been so open about it, people are offering to help,” he said.
The state-of-the-art Hub was opened in 2011 boasting a huge amount of facilities such as dance and drama space, music studio, spa and therapy rooms, a cafe, a garage, accommodation, kayak lake and a BMX track.
Mr Yeadon took up the post of manager on January 1 this year.
“I really just wanted to do music and Tai Chi,” he explained. “But I was concerned that if another manager came in from outside, they might not share the same ethos of the charity.”
In the three months that have passed since his appointment, however, he has been able to slash about £24,000 from the annual shortfall. Much of this is through cost cutting.
Although designed to be sustainable, there are flaws in the building including the wood pellet boiler, which currently costs more than gas.
“We are looking for a Government grant for a new one,” says Mr Yeadon who added that consultations are also underway with green energy companies.
The Hub spends between £15,000 and £17,000 for gas each year and along with the boiler, the cost is more than £20,000. A further £15,000 is spent each year on electricity.
A major problem for the Hub is that funding sources are drying up and what sources remain are being over-subscribed, Mr Yeadon said.
Council cuts hit staff costs hardest and the charity is having to find more money to pay wages. Staff are working up to 50 per cent more than they are being paid.
Being forthright about the facility’s problems has brought help in unexpected ways, such as the free training given to all staff in portable appliance testing.
“We don’t need to hire people in to do that now,” Mr Yeadon beamed.
“We are tightening up on slack spending and seeing what little things we can do ourselves instead of calling someone in.”
An offer has also been made by a local joinery to produce a donation box for the entrance.
Mr Yeadon said community help and participation is part of the solution and he hopes to attract more volunteers, particularly with experience in aspects such as fundraising, computers, cafés, gardening, DIY and on front desks.
“We are having to reinvent the wheel a bit. How to keep our core – creating youth opportunities – but adding more by opening up to the wider community instead of just young people,” said Mr Yeadon.
The Hub has already begun this change with entertainer Mark Carter hosting events for older people. While still in their infancy, these may help boost coffers in the long term.
Not restricting the facility to young people also has other benefits, particularly in the music section where young musicians can learn a lot from their older counterparts, says Mr Yeadon.
While as many as 500 young people pass through the Hub’s doors each week only a small percentage of income is made through membership and the nominal fee paid when the youngsters come in.
Activities include taekwondo, Duke of Edinburgh Awards, club, Tai Chi, DJ school, kitchen workshops, concerts and high ropes. Many also come in simply to “hang out”.
“It may seem empty because it is so big, but if you actually look around there’s tons of stuff going on. We have at least 50 in on a night,” says the manager.
Mr Yeadon has also been in contact with UK Youth as part of a bid to promote its accommodation facilities to schools and youth organisations.
“Primarily we are looking at where we can engage young people but also to increase day time use, such as days out for businesses,” he explained.
Hosting events, such as the Veg Out in Barney project’s first anniversary party, is seen as the kind of income-generating activity they want to be involved with.
“We are looking at anything we can do that will make a positive difference to the world,” Mr Yeadon said.
The association with Veg Out in Barney extends to the new farm under construction behind the Hub.
Once completed it will provide food for the kitchen, offer learning and education for young people and will encourage young volunteers.
Links with other organisations such as the Teesdale YMCA, Teesdale School’s after-school programme and the sports centre are seen both as potential revenue generators, as well as extra opportunities for young people.
The salon, which pays rent to the charity, is already a source of income and is considered a true TCR success story.
“The young people working there came through the TCR, so they are part of the furniture really,” Mr Yeadon said.
“In general the community want to see this work because it is a facility for them.
“The last three months has seen a lot of positive movement in the right direction to make it sustainable.”