Alton Community Association
What we do
Alton Community Association CIO (charity No 1173885) is run by a Board of Management Trustees (BMT) - local people who volunteer their time and expertise. The ACA has two main roles, as stated in our constitution:
- To advance education and to provide facilities in the interest of social welfare for recreation and leisure time occupation with the object of improving the conditions of life for the people of Alton and the surrounding area.
- To secure the establishment of a community centre and to maintain and manage it for activities promoted by the association and its constituent bodies in furtherance of the above objects.
Whilst our official objectives are rather verbose, our role is essentially to provide community services and facilities for Alton. Our town has a number of other community facilities, including Alton Assembly Rooms, Alton College, Allen Gallery, Curtis Museum, Alton Maltings Centre, Alton Sports Centre and Finnimore Pavilion, so the residents and businesses of Alton have a good range of facilities and services to draw upon. Alton Community Centre is a public facility that caters for all age groups and people of all backgrounds. Rather than list everything we do here, we invite you to explore this website to find out more about all the things that go on at the centre.
How we are run
The ACA offers membership to local residents and we hold an Annual General Meeting once a year, usually in January. Our management practices are overseen by the rules and regulations of the Charity Commission, and we now have 'pre-Visible' status. 'Visible' certification is for community organisations and is similar to ISO 9001 for businesses - quality systems and standards.
Whilst all the ACA trustees are volunteers, Alton Community Centre is run by a part-time staff of about 40 paid people, including the operations manager, administrative staff, caretakers and those who run the various services: daycare for the elderly, youth club and the course tutors for the Adult Education programme. On top of this are our independently-run café and bar.
The ACA and Alton Community Centre are financed by four means:
- Membership subscriptions
- Grant funding: An on-going small grant from Alton Town Council and funding from other external funding bodies.
- Fund-raising & Donations: this includes ACA Fest, Christmas Cracker and many other events we run to raise funds. We also seek gift aid donations and legacies.
- Revenue: Income from Room Hiring, Events, Café and Bar concessions, Adult Education, Daycare for the elderly, Assembly Rooms Management, Equipment hire, Minibus hire, Shopmobility hire and other service provisions.
By far the largest chunk of income is from room hire (in terms of the every-day running of the centre). Some of our services do not generate enough income to cover their costs, so that is why we are always fund-raising to make sure these important services can continue.
The local paper records that an informal meeting of local residents was held on 27th June 1972 to discuss securing a community centre for Alton. People knew that Alton Urban District Council was due to be replaced by East Hampshire District Council in 1974, and there were concerns that the community centre project would get sidelined in this process. A public meeting was held two weeks later on the 11th July at the Friends Meeting House to discuss setting up Alton Community Association (ACA). This led to members adopting the first constitution on 25th October 1972 and it became a registered charity on 7th January 1974. This was an unincorporated association, charity no 266673. The ACA negotiated with Alton Urban District Council and they agreed to buy an old factory in Amery Street; the ACA signed a 99 year lease on 25th March 1974. The council spent £110,000 on the building conversion (roughly £1,221,000 in 2017 values) and Alton Community Centre was opened by actor Marius Goring on 18th October 1975. In 2015 we held some events to mark the 40th anniversary of the centre's opening.
Since 1975 the building has been extended by the ACA to include the Garden Room, Playgroup room (room 4), along with additions to the Daycare and Youth rooms. There was a period when we stopped doing much to the centre once we had requested a new building in 2000. After several attempts to secure a new building, we realised that we couldn't let the building deteriorate any further. East Hampshire District Council firstly spent money on important repairs and refurbishment, including checking the wiring and painting the building. We then decided to embark on a series of improvements, grouped into independently-funded phased projects. In 2014 we started with 'Phase 1', creating a small meeting room (room 10), caretakers' office, installed radiators in the Garden Room, provided the U3A with their own storage cupboard and combined our administrative offices into one. 'Phase 2' involved upgrading the toilets and the café kitchen in 2015 and the following year we installed acoustic inter-connecting doors between the Main Hall, Members' Room and Garden Room, as well as similar doors into the Main Hall and Members' Room from the entrance foyer. We put in new acoustic ceilings in the Main Hall and Members' Room, new LED lighting and secondary double glazing in the Main Hall. In 2017 'Phase 3' upgraded the kitchenette, improved the Garden Room and refurbished the disabled toilet, bar, foyer and front entrance. 'Phase 4', in 2018, was all about improving the fire standards of the centre (triggered by the Grenfell Tower disaster). There is already a 'Phase 5' and 'Phase 6' in the pipeline. The process of upgrading will continue as long as there are things that need doing and money available, as we strive to improve the facilities for centre users.
In 2016 we took on the running of Alton Assembly Rooms on behalf of Alton Town Council (ATC). We operate the building as a concession, providing staff, taking room bookings, invoicing the room hirers and promoting some of the events. Alton Town Council continue to buy all the provisions and equipment, pay for the utilities, maintain the building and liaise with the ACA. This means that the building remains in the ownership and control of ATC, securing the facility for future generations.
At the 2017 AGM the members voted in favour of converting Alton Community Association from an unincorporated association into a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation). This duly took place and we swapped over operations to the CIO on 1/9/17. The CIO is a new charity (1173885), taking on all the responsibilities of the old organisation, and is a legal entity in its own right. This means that it holds the lease, owns all equipment and offers the trustees the same protection afforded to company directors in the commercial sector.
The ACA has gone through some hard times in the past, but it has survived and persisted in doing the job it was set up to do. This is thanks both the staff and to the people who have put themselves forward as trustees. We are always on the look out for new trustees and other supporting volunteers - we really are run "by the people, for the people". If you feel that you would be able to contribute some of your time to helping with the centre, please do get in touch.