INNOVATIVE ways of keeping open community buildings are being explored by groups across Keighley.

Volunteers are working with Community Action specialists and Bradford Council officers to find new sources of funding for running costs or ways to improve their management.

The Transformation Programme aims to give community centres and village halls a long-term alternative to relying on ever-dwindling council grants.

Transformation was one of several projects involving Community Action Bradford and District that were recently highlighted to Keighley Area Committee.

Committee members heard that Community Action was formed last year through the merger of three organisations supporting the district’s voluntary and community sector, including Keighley’s KIVCA.

The new charity provides a range of services including volunteering, community transport, a database of groups, giving the voluntary sector a voice, and advice on funding, governance and marketing.

Transformation supports community buildings and ‘hub organisations’ in the voluntary sector that would have a sustainable future if they were given a small amount of advice, expertise or finance.

Community Action looks at groups that might benefit from a ‘transformative input’ rather than relying on the traditional grant process to subsidise their ongoing activities. Specialist worker Clive Barker begins by giving each group a health check.

One example of new thinking is that a group could register as a charity, and the first time receive an 80 per cent rate relief.

The area committee also heard about Community Action’s four-year E5 Project, funded with £500,000 of Big Lottery money, which recently finished its first year with a celebration of successful women.

By working in secondary schools and community settings, the project aims to develop women and girls’ confidence, self-esteem, self-worth, assertiveness and empowerment.

Community Action employs a community development worker in Keighley East Ward, funded by Keighley Town Council.

Community Action runs Central Hall in Alice Street, Keighley, which is home to several local enterprise organisations as well as hosting public events and private celebrations.

Community Action worker Clive Whitaker is helping groups across the district use Community Asset Transfer to take over the running of community centres and amenities from Bradford Council.

A Community Action spokesman said that although some groups had progressed through the four-stage process, it was proving a challenge for the voluntary and community sector.

He said: “Groups who have progressed to later stages and are negotiating leases have had to call upon legal advisers with the inevitable costs associated.”

Groups must have a viable business plan before the council will hand over the asset, and this has often been a sticking point.

Bradford Council recently withdrew funding for the long-established bfunded service, which helps hundreds of groups find funding sources, so Community Action is continuing the service from its own reserves.

Community Action also operates a payroll and account service for voluntary groups; provides training for staff and volunteers; and supports befriending, daycare and advocacy services for elderly people.

Across the district Community Action runs the Young Lives network supporting organisations working with children and young people.