Miners’ club to be sold after it is refused funding

Bebside Welfare which is closing down with Derick Watson. GM020283
Bebside Welfare which is closing down with Derick Watson. GM020283

Blyth’s only miners’ welfare centre is being put up for sale after it was refused funding to get it up and running again.

Trustees of the Bebside Welfare Social Centre in Front Street say they have been forced to sell-up after they were refused the £33,000 needed to run the centre by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO).

The cash came from the sale of the steward’s house nextdoor to the centre, which went for around £100,000.

Trustees then spent £59,000 on refurbishing the facility and the money leftover was to be used to help drive the club forward.

But when they approached CISWO they were refused the funds because the centre has a bar.

The organisation now want the trustees to sell the centre as it has run up £9,000 in debt.

Derek Watson, secretary and trustee of the Bebside centre, said: “I am very angry and bitter because a lot of people put a lot of work into the club and have not charged a penny.

“This is the only community centre left in Blyth that belongs to the miners.

“It’s a big thing for Blyth.

“Blyth is not the richest place and we give the room free for people to use.

“We are a charity first and foremost.

“Once it is gone, it’s gone and you’re never going to replace it.”

The centre, which accommodates 120 people, has been at the heart of the community since it opened in 1974, hosting hundreds of functions, including wedding receptions, darts tournaments and charity events.

Former chairman and club member Rob McDougall, who bought the house nextdoor, said: “I just can not see any sense in that they let us spend money upgrading the place then refuse to give us a little bit extra to promote it and then plan to close it.

“If we are going to go down at least let us go down with a fight.

“Don’t shut the door, let us at least try to keep it open.”

Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell says the news is “kick in the teeth” for Blyth.

“Blyth has just been written off as usual,” he said.

“I always felt that was the end game. It is going to be our loss.

“We tried to fight but they would not yield. They are determined to see the end of it.

“We will have no miners’ welfare and every other coal area has them.

“It’s a kick in the teeth for Blyth.”

The site is expected to be up for sale as of next week.

Both Mr Campbell and Mr Watson have said they are not giving up the fight, however, and say they are looking into the possibility of taking out an interest free loan from Voluntary Action Blyth Valley.

Mr Watson said: “I came here from Gateshead in 1971 and I don’t have a mining background.

“But I still feel passionately about it and I am still willing to fight for them and help.”

At the time the News Post Leader went to press, CISWO were unavailable for comment.