Surf’s up after computer hub revamp

The Blackbird Leys Community Centre hub has new computers. Gordon Daley learns from Dave Growcott

The Blackbird Leys Community Centre hub has new computers. Gordon Daley learns from Dave Growcott

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

BLACKBIRD Leys’ compu-ter hub has been renovated as part of the council’s plan to open it up to more community groups.

The hub, in the Blackbird Leys Community Centre in Blackbird Leys Road, has been updated by Oxford City Council.

As well as a fresh coat of paint, it has 12 new computers, replacing old PCs which had been in the room for nearly 10 years. There will also be two new computers installed in reception.

The £21,750 cost came from an Oxfordshire County Council skills grant to support local work clubs.

City council neighbourhood locality officer David Growcott said: “This new PC system is state-of-the-art.”

The council is hoping the hub will now be used by people who do not have computers in their own homes, and is using the hub to teach computer skills. It also hopes to run courses to help people do specific tasks, such as complete benefits or tax forms online.

Mr Growcott said: “We want to increase local use so that as many groups as possible can get in here.

“This is primarily for residents of the Leys, whether that’s through the college, children's’ clubs or the council.”

The renovation should signal the end of a row between the council and Leys Information Technology Zone (Litz) – which formerly rented the room – which began in February.

The community technology teaching group rented the room for £2,500 a year, but said the council would treble the group’s overheads if it introduced an hourly rent system to allow other groups to use the room.

An agreement was reached where groups can rent the room for £7.50 for a three hour block, while Litz also rents an adjacent office separately.

Litz director Nick Tills said: “The room looks great and the computers are great.”

Neighbourhood partnership team leader Simon Gabriel said: “More and more things are done online, like universal credit applications and looking for somewhere to live.

“People often don’t have the internet in their homes, and this is a good space to learn to use PCs and end that divide.”

Mr Gabriel said the council hoped the hub would also help the estate’s residents get involved with the community plan, which will focus on several problem areas.

He said: “There’s going to be parts of that plan which are going to be better achieved by having this improved access to the internet.

“We could ask people to come online to encourage engagement with the plan and get their views on what’s needed.”

Abingdon Road resident Gordon Daley was one of the first people to use the hub, which officially reopened on Monday.

The 73-year-old is taking part in a council-run course on how to use computers.

He said: “It was very nice, I’d never used it before, but it was very well laid out.

“The course was very good and informative – I’m basically computer illiterate.”

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