Continuity of youth work in Bradley Stoke looks assured after Town Councillors voted unanimously to fund Southern Brooks Community Partnership (SBCP) for six months beyond 31st March, when the organisation’s current contract is due to expire.
A recent meeting of Bradley Stoke Town Council’s (BSTC’s) Finance & Leisure (F&L) Committee saw Councillors minded to offer only a two month extension, this being the minimum period necessary before a new provider could be appointed by South Gloucestershire Council, with whom the Town Council has agreed to work “in partnership” on youth matters.
SBCP had indicated that it would not be prepared to accept a two month extension, leaving open the possibility of no youth work being undertaken in the town between 1st April and 31st May [see earlier report in The Journal].
A special meeting of Full Council on Wednesday evening (25th February), attended by SBCP Director Julie Snelling, SBCP youth workers and young people from the local youth clubs, witnessed Councillors’ opinions tortuously migrate from the previously proposed two month extension to the finally agreed six month period.
Ironically, a suggestion made by Cllr Jon Williams (Lib Dem) for the very same sixth month extension had found not a single supporter amongst his Conservative colleagues at last week’s F&L meeting.
Cllr Morgan Baynham (Conservative), who had not been present at the F&L meeting, voiced his support for SBCP and expressed the view that Council should give the organisation “at least six months” notice.
Councillors heard Julie Snelling explain that it would be impossible to fill the currently vacant full-time youth leader position for a period of just two months. They also listened to impassioned pleas from four youth club members, who said they had built up trusting relationships with the current youth workers and feared that these would be destroyed if there were a change of provider.
The Council said it now expects SGC to appoint a new provider by the end of June at the very latest. Should SBCP fail to win the contract, it will handover to the new provider during August and September.
Councillors also agreed to form a new Youth Committee to oversee how their “record funding” for youth work in the town is spent.
After the meeting, Julie Snelling told The Journal:
“Southern Brooks is thrilled that the town council have made the decision to extend our contract to deliver youth work for a further 6 months while a tender process is put in place.
“Young people were passionate about the relationship they have with our youth workers and how this has helped them develop their social skills and their place in the community.”
“While our preference would have been for them to continue our funding for a further 12 months bringing their commissioning process in line with the South Gloucestershire Youth Service commissioning across the authority, we are pleased and relieved that we have the opportunity to continue to deliver youth work in the short term.”
“Council are clearly keen for to create a dedicated youth centre at Brook Way Community Centre, and we look forward to working with them to ensure that young people are fully involved in the transition to this centre.”
Cllr Jon Williams issued the following statement:
“A Youth Work crisis was avoided last night when a special meeting of BSTC eventually decided to do the right thing by our young people and give SBCP a further 6 months contract to deliver youth services in the town. However, the need for this meeting could have been avoided if the Conservative administration had accepted the proposal put by Liberal Democrat Cllr Jon Williams at last weeks’ Finance meeting which asked them to agree the same terms.”
“Last week’s Finance meeting decided to delay any decision to allow more members of the Council to take the decision. In the end the same number of councillors attended the “special meeting” with all but one being the same people.”
“At the Finance meeting I proposed a 6 month extension to the contract but at that time none of the Conservative councillors were prepared to support me. We have now had to give up another night to discuss this subject and although now a Conservative proposal the decision I wanted has been achieved.”
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