Voice of Village Halls folds
by Deborah Clarke, Village Halls/ Rural Evidence Manager

The National Village Halls Forum (the Forum), which has been the voice of around 90,000 volunteers running village and community halls throughout the country, is to fold after almost 35 years. Its annual meeting, which was to be hosted by Damien Green MP at Millbank, has been 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 has relied on that network to facilitate access to village hall committees and for professional support. The Forum is concerned about the reduced support that is now available to them, and village hall committees, as they are older volunteers and have not been able to recruit a younger generation to take their place.

“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“

The Forum’s grassroots role of lobbying of MPs achieved a number of important changes that have protected charitable community buildings. The continued zero rating of VAT on the construction of new charitable community halls was achieved in the face of an EC Court Judgement in 1988, saving communities throughout the UK millions of pounds. Through working with the Government’s Red Tape Initiative the Forum 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.

Spokesman, Alan West, chairman of Ringmer Village Hall Committee in Sussex, said “The Forum had an important role to play as volunteers trying to manage, rebuild and improve halls face a very difficult task particularly in raising funds and grants in the current financial climate. Earlier this year we met Oliver Letwin MP 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, but while he has written on the subject we are still waiting to hear of any improvement.

“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“

Ends

26 October 2015 Contacts: Malcolm Eke, Chairman, National Village Hall Forum malcolmeke@aol.com 01233 638062 Alan West, Vice Chairman, National Village Hall Forum alan.west@btinternet.com 01273 812585 Mary Mathers, Secretary, mary.mathers@btinternet.com 01929 459217

Notes to Editors: The ACRE Network is formed of ACRE and its members the 38 rural community councils based at County level across rural England www.acre.org.uk