There is some good news but still uncertainty after a meeting held on 2019-02-14 with a follow up planned this week.
I (Cllr Ian Manning) met with officers from Orwell Housing, The County Council, the Whitworth Trust (the charity that supports the house) and women's groups on 2019-02-14. Whilst it was a private meeting with no agreement to publish minutes, I want to update interested residents on what came out of it and follow up since.
I made sure we got timescales, actions, and a follow up meeting to ensure we have a chance of saving the service.
1) There was problem with the timescale: the contract ends in June, but the County Council decision on whether to continue funding isn't until May; Orwell have to give their staff 3 months notice, and if the funding wasn't renewed would look at selling the property.
I followed this up with the Chair of the Children's Committee and with officers. Good news in the short term: the County council will honour 3 months from the May decision IF the committee decision is to not renew funding. If 3 months isn't enough to ensure the safe move on of clients, then the County is willing to consider further extensions.
This at least provides a context in which we can discuss retaining the service.
2) Orwell responded to the County Counciltation and workshops, but hadn't taken up the County Councils offer of meetings last year - and are willing to consider other options
This at least explains why we got into this situation; the options for a third party to provide the same service or a different one, or a reconfiguration of the current service, whether at Whitworth House or elsewhere, also become tenable.
Orwell Housing are willing and happy to consider such options. They are also willing to consider options under which they continue to run the service in the longer term. However, to make sure that all of these options are on the table will need time, and a transition period of at least a year.
I believe this shows a very positive approach from Orwell.
3) Possible purchase options
I am looking into the (quite remote) possibility of the Commerical & Investments Committee purchasing the property in order to save the building. There are multiple issues with this, but all options are worth pursuing.
The work now will focus on improving discussions between Orwell and the County in order to influence the reccommendation for a decision on May 21st.