A DECISION has been made over the future of Napier Hall in Old Kilpatrick.

The IRED committee took place this morning (July 7) to solely discuss the hall's ownership.

We previously reported that four groups in the village expressed interest to take on all or partial responsibility for Napier Hall, which was presented to councillors in a report this week.

Notes of interest were submitted by Old Kilpatrick Community Council, Napier Hall Community Group (formed of 23 members who use the hall), Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels (OKFP), and the Lodge Saint Patrick.

We previously told that in the report documents published on June 30, it was recommended that councillors approve the lease of Napier Hall to OKFP at a rental of £10,200 a year for ten years.

Addressing the council's meeting, Julie Hunter, a member of Napier Hall Community Group, who runs the Old Kilpatrick Playgroup and Toddlers, highlighted her concerns to the committee.

She said: "We have been serving the families of Old Kilpatrick for over 55 years. If you choose to vote through the Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels then we would be forced to close. There are currently strict guidelines in place.

"Enquiries were made to the Care Inspectorate who said they wouldn't expect a care service to be in a hall with an operation [such as OKFP].

"[The hall] would be run as intended for the community by the community. Not run for and by one group with one director at the helm. There are lots of new flats being built in Old Kilpatrick and one can only assume there will be families moving into some of them.

"We have been contacted by people worried about their local businesses, about their house prices and about parking issues.

"I stand before you today asking questions for the 1,200 plus people of Old Kilpatrick who deserve to have their voices heard. I would urge you all before making your decision today to ask for an independent review to look into the situation and mutually assess the transparency of the decision.

"I fear the decision was made long before any of us came to this meeting."

The recommendation was made to approve the lease - which would last for 10 years - to Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels at a rental of £10,200 per annum.

Chair Councillor David McBride made amendments to his recommendations to ensure that the current terms and conditions cannot be changed by Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels.

He said: "Given the assessment of each bid, the need to meet the council's saving target has already been reduced from West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust budget. I will move the recommendation but I will move additional recommendations. 

"The lease will contain the same terms and conditions for use as in the current title deeds and this will ensure the hall remains for community use for the full period of 10 years.

"In moving the recommendation, I believe we have the prospect here of a community facility closing now being safeguarded for the next 10 years.

"All community groups will have the opportunity to remain and having read the bids from the organisations, I believe that Old Kilpatrick Food Parcel demonstrates that they have the organisation and the funding that can take on the building, make it financially viable and protect community assets.

"Based on the information in the report and the bids from the three organisations, I believe it is in the best interest of the community as we will have set certainty for the next 10 years.

"This should reassure everyone what the basis of the lease is and no one should be concerned that they'll be inappropriately let or uses that can develop during this time."

An amended motion was put forward by Councillor Lauren Oxley which asked the meeting to push back the decisions until more discussions with the community could be made.

It read: "It is clear that if the decision is taken today, significant bad feeling will be felt within the community which will not benefit Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels, West Dunbartonshire Council nor the community of Old Kilpatrick as a whole.

"Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels is a valuable and worthwhile community group that has helped so many in their hour of need. This motion does not question the value and importance of this local community group.

"It is imperative that all parties are clear that a fair process took place which led to this long-lasting decision and clarity is found over the viability and practicality for our current user groups to use the hall.

"With this in mind committee agrees to continue the matter to the next full IRED committee on August 16 for two reasons to allow further detail about the process to be brought back to the committee to satisfy all interested parties including the bidders who were not chosen.

"And to allow discussions to determine the feasibility of all user groups continuing to use the hall and having written conditions presented for agreement."

The recommendation was voted in by seven Labour councillors to five SNP councillors.

We previously told that councillors had discussed ways to plug a £14.6 million budget gap as they met to set West Dunbartonshire Council’s (WDC) budget and council tax rates for the new financial year.

One proposed cost-cutting measure was to reduce community facility provision across the local authority to bring it to “a level more consistent with neighbouring local authorities”.

It was proposed this could be achieved through a combination of closures as well as community asset transfers (CAT) – which allows community groups to make requests to local authorities for any land or buildings they feel they could make better use of.

Groups can request ownership, lease, or other rights as they wish.

The move was accepted by councillors and is expected to result in an overall generated saving of around £450,000 with part of that figure coming from a reduction in the budget for seven community facilities managed by West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust (around £257,700).