Community groups’ use of halls protected
The Greens on Marrickville Council have defeated a push by conservative Councillors to increase fees for community groups and local not for profit groups who use Council’s community meeting rooms and town halls.
Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore said, “Marrickville Council currently has a policy of providing our community meeting rooms to local not for profit groups at a lower rate than commercial groups. Council also offers a limited number of fee waivers or free use of Council halls and spaces, using strict rules and an application process.
At the 1 December 2015 Council meeting Conservative Councillor Victor Macri, supported by Liberal Clr Rosana Tyler and business Independent Morris Hanna, unsuccessfully tried to overturn a Council decision to “… facilitate the use of [Council] town halls and community meeting rooms by local community groups and not for profits at minimal cost where possible [and] not increase fees …. without consultation with those groups that may be affected.”
Clr Ellsmore said, “Of course community groups and local not for profits are charged lower fees than commercial or out of area groups.
“We have had Council study after Council study telling us local community and resident groups want more access to our town halls and meeting rooms, not less. The pressure on community groups has intensified over the last few years, with the State Government moving to charge commercial rents for use of its buildings, when previously it provided free or low cost access to community services.
“It is positive that the majority of the Councillors have rejected a suggestion of significant fee increases for not for profits last night.
“Council is currently investigating ways to attract more commercial users of our Town Halls – for local weddings and commercial events for example. Investigating these options will help Council raise some additional income. However, in doing this we cannot and must not push our local community & resident groups aside. Our Council halls should be for residents, first and foremost. They are community assets, and the community has a right to use them,” Clr Ellsmore said.
A copy of the hire fees for local not for profits is available on the Council website: http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/en/outandabout/venues-for-hire/community-venue-hire-fees/. Not for profit hirers are charged $42 per hour, with regular hirers charged a lower fee.
Hire fees are publicly advertised each year, and residents are invited to make submissions before fee structures are adopted. The current Council policy does not differentiate between types of not for profit groups – but groups which are local get priority. The definition of not for profit covers local bushcare groups, book clubs, community services, charities, local political groups, wine tasting societies, religious groups and more.
More information: Clr Sylvie Ellsmore 0403 977 213
 See for example the “Recreation Needs Study” (2011) which found that access to small and medium sized meeting rooms was a key need in the community (available to download from http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/Documents/Marrickville%20Assets/recreation%20needs%20research%20strategic%20directions%20for%20marrickville%20report.pdf). See also the “Pressures Facing Local Community Services Organisations 2015” Report provided to Council on 17 November 2015, which found for the second year running that access to affordable premises in the Marrickville LGA was one of the most pressing issues facing local community services.