Firms back plan for social links with businesses
BINGO halls, laund- erettes and other commercial premises should be encouraged to offer meeting places for local social clubs and groups, a think- tank has suggested.
Property owners could be offered incentives to open their doors such as reducing business rates on buildings that serve a community function, ResPublica said.
The idea has been welcomed by businesses in South West Wales.
In a new report — Clubbing Together: The Hidden Wealth of Communities — the think tank said clubs play an essential but often unacknowledged role in boosting community and civic spirit, and it calls on the government to look at new ways of encouraging them.
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The report's co-author Caroline Macfarland said: "We need to start treating club activities and social gatherings as one of our 'five-a-day' for a healthy society.
"The Government need to take radical steps to put social groups at the heart of our ailing town centres.
"With the right incentives, this will revitalise towns and deliver significant social benefits."
The idea was welcomed by Joseph Cresci, from the family-run Cresci's Cafe in Skewen.
He said: "This is an interesting idea, it is definitely worth looking at.
''We would have the room here to host meetings, depending on their size.
"I think it could work, it is a nice idea, but we would need to see the details."
The think-tank's paper also calls for churches to provide space for social groups with interests like the arts or sport — saying such clubs improve interaction, and combat loneliness.
Many churches already open their doors to such groups — for example St David's Church on Woodfield Street in Morriston hosts meetings of Morriston Camera Club.
The report has been supported by the Bingo Association in Wales.
Chief executive Paul Talboys said: "Bingo clubs, for example, play a vital social role, and recognition of this value through promoting multi-purpose town centres and tax incentives will ensure that our clubs can continue to operate as pillars of local communities."
ResPublica is headed by Phillip Blond, whose ideas are seen as a key influence on PM David Cameron's Big Society idea.