Backlash grows against Tory plans to axe youth clubs
Wiltshire Conservatives are trying to balance the council's budgets at the expense of the county's young people.
This follows sharp reductions in funding to youth services two years ago, when a similar threat to the centres was seen off albeit with redundancies amongst youth workers, and a further budget cut last year.
A secret report went to the cabinet on January 20th, but the plans were subsequently exposed by the UNITE union which informed the media of the threat.
The council is trying to claim that young people nowadays don't need youth centres as they prefer to spend their time at home on social networking sites.
Closing the youth service would save £1.3million per year, though WC says it could give some of this back to area boards and campuses, some of which might include some facilities for young people. The council also claims that volunteers could help out.
A 'consultation' on the proposals is underway, with people invited to comment on four options:
- cut the service and run it more cheaply.
- privatise the service with a lower specification.
- let the staff run a reduced service as a 'Public Service Mutual'.
- rely on volunteers and area boards to provide a skeleton service.
Sparksite - for young people
A petition with approximately 2,200 signatories will be presented to the council meeting on Tuesday Feb 25th by Mr Chris Baker entitled, 'Stop the proposed cuts to youth services'.
The petition states:
'Stop the proposed cuts to youth services. The cuts that you propose will simply be eaten up in the policing of young people with no facilities to direct their energy into something positive'.
'Wiltshire Council are planning to cut 24 youth services and up to 144 youth workers. These cuts include losing Bass Connection based at Grosvenor House in Salisbury. This service has provided the opportunity for thousands of young people to not only build on their music skills but provide invaluable support and mentoring not available elsewhere'.
Meanwhile at the same meeting an amendment to the budget will be proposed by the Liberal Democrats. It says:
To increase the proposed budget for Integrated Youth by £250,000 to a figure of £3.232m funded though:
i) Ceasing to produce printed agendas and minutes for elected members for all council meetings. For the avoidance of doubt this includes Full Council, all committees and task groups including joint committees where Wiltshire Council is the lead council.
To facilitate the paperless working for elected members a tablet computer will be provided on request which will provide appropriate access to electronic versions of all relevant papers.
This will produce an annual saving of £100,000.
ii) Reduce the Members Development Fund by £25,000. Whilst recognising that member development is important, this needs to be balanced against the delivery of front line services.
iii) Undertake an audit of the cost effectiveness of the provision of premises from which Youth Work is currently delivered. Where appropriate negotiate a viable and local alternative that can be secured by the council to deliver at least the current hours required by the service. Work undertaken with officers has identified savings of at least £125,000 from this approach which can be realised in the 2014/15 financial year.
Protests in Melksham - Wiltshire Times
Comment. Only Wiltshire Council Conservatives could describe this horrifying insult to the county's young people as 'positive'. The proposals are ill thought through. The 8% figure is based on unreliable data, being recorded during the summer months, the time of exams and holidays. It takes no account of the work youth workers do in schools, with voluntary youth clubs, or on the streets. Money saved by the council could be lost if other agencies such as the police have to spend more of their resources keeping vulnerable young people out of trouble. The report doesn't take into account that some of those who use the youth service are from disadvantaged communities and families. WC Tories have already cut the service - it's gone down from an estimated £2.6million when WC started in 2009 to 1.3million this year. Next year's budget will, if the schemes go ahead, drop to just £800,000.
Please respond to the consultation if you're interested in the future of youth services. Be aware though that you need to be forthright in your views and try not to fall into the WC consultation traps.
Here's how it works.
WC - Do you think efficiency and saving money and giving good value to council tax payers is important?
You - Yes.
WC - Thankyou for supporting our proposal to cut youth services. Your views are important to us and will be taken into account.
End of survey.