Previously members of the East Oxford Community Association were appalled at the role played by Councillor Sareva in the eviction of the 32-year-old social club from East Oxford Community Centre. Because of their concern at what appeared to be a peremptory decision of the EOCA committee to evict the club, one of the few remaining community bars in Oxford, and a popular and well-run venue for local people, members had called a Special General Meeting of the EOCA to discuss the issues. The meeting was set for 18th April at 6pm. When around 30-40 members arrived, they found the community centre closed to them by a security operation run by Councillor Sareva. The meeting had at the last minute been cancelled on obscure technical grounds (it was clear to those present that the EOCA committee was afraid to talk to concerned members of the community about their decisions). Bizarrely, Ms Sareva acted as "enforcer" of this decision. Prior to the meeting, she tried to have me and another member of the social club committee evicted from our place of work, the Oxford Action Resource Centre, where we are tenants of the community centre. We refused to leave, citing her lack of authority to do so. A group of 30-40 people then turned up to discuss the issues surrounding the social club's sudden eviction. Not being permitted to enter the building by uniformed and hostile security under the command of Councillor Sareva, these people discussed on the street what they should do next. At this point Councillor Sareva called the police, absurdly, citing three names to them as persons responsible - my own (RIchard Hering), folk club Catweazle maestro Matt Sage, and treasurer of the club Ed Pope. Personally I was rather shocked by this, as I was an ex-chair of the EOCA, a member of the social club committee, and a tenant of the building as a member of OARC. The other people named by Cllr Sareva to the police are similarly up-standing community volunteers. The police duly arrived, quickly discovered that no crime was being committed, and left. It should be noted that Cllr Sareva does not seem to have been carrying out Green Party policy towards the community centre, as fellow Green councillors Matt Morton and Craig Simmons had attended the meeting and were also excluded from the building. Cllrs Morton and Simmons were most helpful in convening a meeting in a local cafe.
There remain a number of troubling questions about Ms Sareva's involvement in the EOCC, which hopefully can be answered so that we can set the record straight. Cllr Sareva seems to have been instrumental in the eviction of the social club and the revocation of its licence. She was present at the hearing the police called proposing to revoke the club's licence. She did not speak as a witness for either side, but cat-called during the meeting during the witness statements of representatives of the club (at one point shouting "they're drugs liberals", which I found personally offensive). There is the mysterious relationship of Cllr Sareva with the security firm Hawk Securities who secured the building the night of the Special General Meeting and had been on nightly duty at the club prior to its closure. It appears that though Ms Sareva was working as a volunteer during her Friday night stints on the door with Hawk Security, the Club nevertheless paid Hawk Security for her services. Why? In the weeks prior to the eviction of the club one of the Hawk guards was heard to say that "soon we'll be in charge here". What did he mean? Was he merely speaking out of turn? At one point we were told by the administrator of the EOCC that Cllr Sareva had applied to run the bar now that the social club was evicted. We understand that this application was now either been withdrawn or rejected. This is surely right, as it would appear to be a clear conflict of interest.
On the day of the Cowley Road Carnival, it was also clear that Ms Sareva was running the security operation which so many people found offensive on the biggest communty day of the year. I personally witnessed two occasions where the security on the door contacted her to find out what they should do. Who was running the bar, and where did the profits go? The social club used to run the bar as a trading arm of the (charitable) community association. If on July 6th it was run as a franchise, who was the licensee and designated premises supervisor, and how were the profits disposed of?
If you're concerned about what's going on at the East Oxford Community Centre, please join the Community Association (01865 792168), 44b Princes Street.