A meeting was held this afternoon at 2 o’clock at the Red Cross Centre; it was a closed meeting for the centre’s volunteers only, but it is of interest to the community, so the Residents’ Association carried out an expert infiltration.
Michael Lascelles of the Red Cross led the meeting, and I spoke to him afterwards.
They have not decided to close the Red Cross Centre, but it is under review. They are concerned that the Centre is, in words becoming clichéd these days, ‘not fit for purpose’, and so they want to work with Three Rivers District Council (which is where I come in) to ensure that the Red Cross’s services continue in the community, in some shape or form.
They have set a working group up, which will work with the Council to find how to continue the provision of services. This might mean begging for taxpayers’ money but might be answered with more creative means. The working group will report in May.
The Red Cross are reviewing many of their centres, and Croxley’s is one of them. I will make no bones about it: the centre might not survive. On the other hand, it might be possible to find another solution, for example refurbishing the centre for another community use which could accommodate Red Cross services.
The panic started when the Red Cross stopped taking bookings from outside groups: at that point it looked as if they were preparing to close up and move out. Wilder rumours were added to that by means of Chinese whispers (or perhaps Facebook whispers) suggesting that the whole thing was to be torn down and turned into flats, but there is no basis for that at all (I would know about it). In fact, Mr Lascelles explained, the Red Cross nationally made a decision not to take outside bookings because they would be expected to employ a bookings manager, and that would not be cost-effective. Whether the same considerations apply to Croxley Green I cannot say but the particular circumstances of our village should be looked at, not a national assumption.
As a result of there being no outside bookings, the centre is empty most of the time, which is a waste. Can another use be found, or a cost-effective way to provide a hireable space for those who have been wont to use the centre? Possibly. Let’s look at it.
In summary, the Red Cross Centre is not closing, yet. It is in terminal danger, but the wilder rumours are unsubstantiated. We need a community conversation to save it as a village asset.