W2W - every good team needs a leader

IT was a sight that I’m sure many constituents would have approved of – their MP in the stocks.

The wet sponges came thick and fast, all in a good cause.

I was attending the Mayor of Portland’s fundraising music fair at the newly renovated community centre, which is a shining example of what islanders have achieved through sheer hard work and dedication.

A former infant school, the building had been dilapidated for five years and was about to be sold off by the county council.

However, as a community asset, local people had the right to try to buy it first.

In 2017, the Mayor, Cllr Susan Cocking, and a working group of her fellow town councillors, decided to go for it, though she admits that had they known what was involved, they might have been discouraged.

Before applying for loans and grants, the group were asked to produce a cash-flow, market and resident research and three different quotes from builders, plumbers and electricians.

It took months.

Importantly, Susan and the team wanted the new venue to be self-funding, rather than through a rise in the precept.

She describes the process as nerve-wracking, but in the end, an astonishing £275,000 was raised.

Portland Community Venue is now a bright, busy hub, housing a nursery school and crèche, teenage drop-in centre, council offices, committee room, hall-for-hire, catering kitchen, advice centre and help with online applications.

It pays for itself with rent from tenants who, in less than a year, have created 10 new jobs for local people.

This can-do attitude is typical of Susan, who wanted it made clear that the effort was a team one.

Of course, that’s true, but every team needs an inspirational leader.