As a council, we are passionate about making sure quality services reach all corners of our wonderful borough and that all our residents have the best access to what they need. So I’m delighted to share that we have just secured a grant of more than £255,000 to improve library, cultural and community services in the South of the Borough.

The funding from Arts Council England’s (ACE) Libraries Improvement Fund will go towards transforming facilities at the Hook Centre in Chessington. This is fabulous news and a hugely exciting boost for the vital work that is done on a daily basis by our wonderful colleagues in libraries and community spaces.

Helping women and girls feel safer

The centre will see improvements that will enable us to work with local partners to offer more opportunities for local people to fire up their creative potential. The funding will help provide spaces where our communities can develop their skills, share their stories and connect with each other. I am particularly excited to see the new digital creative equipment, video gaming resources and refurbishment of the recording studio, as well as the museum cases being integrated with bookshelves to help make our heritage collection more accessible.The reception area will also be reconfigured to create a more flexible exhibition and performance space.

It is a project that brings together our unique cultural heritage and identity with progressive and exciting creative developments. It offers us the opportunity to bring our cultural offer to life in the most engaging way. And work can begin on these improvements immediately - we are aiming to have everything in place by March 2024.

Looking ahead to a greener future

This is another important step in our ongoing commitment to bring quality services closer to residents in their communities. We exist to serve Kingston’s residents and that means doing all we can to make it as easy as possible for people to get the support they need. The Hook Centre is already home to our Community Hub pilot scheme, which sees our Housing Landlord Services operate a drop-in clinic every Thursday for residents to come in and discuss any housing matters.

As well as being within easy reach, these services also cut time spent travelling for both residents and council officers, which means more time for residents and less pollution, making Kingston a cleaner, greener place to live and work.

I know a huge amount of effort from many people went into securing this new funding for the Hook Centre, and I want to thank them for their work to make sure we are in a position to develop our services in an exciting and innovative way. Thanks should also go to ACE and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for their support of our communities. This funding will ensure we can continue our drive to bring quality services and inspiring creative and cultural opportunities right into the heart of our communities.