CBN meeting March 2024

It was a pleasure to see so many familiar faces again at our latest CBN meeting, we were also joined by a representative from The Edge, attending their first CBN meeting.
Our main topic for discussion was Martyn’s Law. We talked through the information we have so far, and discussed how we think it might affect our centres. Some of our members have attended online meetings run by Community Matters, and they shared information from those sessions.

The detailed requirements of Martyn’s Law aren’t yet clear, but we were all concerned about some of the possible consequences. Although the draft Bill has been revised in an attempt to reduce the impact on small venues, the government’s own estimate is that it will cost £160-£500 per year for each venue to implement the requirements. That might not look like a vast amount of money but as we well know, many venues are run on a shoestring and any additional cost can make a big difference. We’re hoping that many of the existing procedures we have in place will be a good start point – things like lone-working policies, daily building checks, and fire safety procedures – but it sounds like there will be more needed to prove compliance, more responsibility for volunteers and hirers, and potentially large financial penalties for non-compliance. There are many elements of the Bill which aren’t yet clear, including the question of who is responsible for ensuring compliance within a building – is it the building owner/landlord, venue manager, trustee, or venue volunteers. This becomes even more complicated when there are several different functions under one roof, because we understand that someone would have responsibility for compliance of the whole building. Hopefully we’ll get more clarity soon.

We encouraged everyone to respond to the government consultation to raise their concerns – this is our opportunity to make our views known, we may not get another chance to influence the outcome.

We also talked about current issues and priorities across our network. Funding and fundraising is a real worry for many, with local authority funding for community centres being reduced. Several centres are reluctantly having to put up rents in order to meet rising costs, although this could have an effect on future bookings. Building maintenance is also a significant problem, with several centres having routine maintenance issues which have been allowed to build up by landlords and now require more urgent action.