LEIGH’S treasured community centre should be declared an “asset of community value” to ensure its future is protected and it remains open for years to come, an MP has insisted.

Southend West MP Anna Firth has written an open letter nominating the community centre, on Elm Road, for additional safeguards after residents raised concerns it could be closed by the Tory-run Leigh Town Council.

If the building, which dates back 100 years, is declared an asset of community value, it would allow the community to bid to buy the building if it was ever placed on the market.

The community centre was thought to be self-sufficient thanks to a cafe and the hiring out of rooms for community events.

However, a review of accounts by the Conservative administration led to claims it had run up deficits totalling £1.6million since the 2016/17 financial year.

Ms Firth has issued a plea for as many residents as possible to join her in signing the letter ahead of it being formally submitted to Southend Council for consideration, before the next full council meeting.

She said; “There is considerable concern about the future of Leigh Community Centre and I would like to put this beyond peradventure.

“To recognise the Leigh Community Centre as an Asset of Community Value, one must consider its longevity and impact within Southend.

“The building itself is well over 100 years old and was the original home of Conservatives in Southend. Since the building was taken over by Leigh Town Council and opened as a community centre in September 2012, it has gone from strength to strength and has established itself a much-loved asset at the heart of the community. The community centre is open to absolutely everyone and serves those of all age groups.”

Leigh town councillor Carole Mulroney “I don’t know the details of what Anna is providing, it is a process that must have a consultation and the city council who own it would have to agree to it becoming a community asset. My one issue with it is that it is all well and good doing that but I feel the centre has been running for ten or more years since we took over and it has become more and more popular, it has been looked after by the town council and it is an arrangement that has worked very well.

“I wouldn’t want to see it divorced and split up and I’d hate to see it go to a trust that didn’t have a public interest in the building.”