Spending on youth provision by Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC) looks set to be slashed by 39% from April if draft budget plans are approved at a meeting next week.
The news comes as young people await the outcome of a two month consultation into ‘youth needs’ in the town that was run by South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) during November and December last year.
The Town Council agreed a budget of £61,500 for ‘youth funding’ in 2011/2012 – with all of this amount being paid to Southern Brooks Community Partnership (SBCP), the organisation contracted to run the town’s sole youth club at the Brook Way Activity Centre.
In July 2011, the two Councils decided they weren’t happy with the way the club was being run and SBCP’s contract was terminated, leading to 13 youth workers being issued with redundancy notices.
The youth club was closed towards the end of October and since then SGC youth workers have been providing an interim programme of youth activities, including ‘detached’ work to engage young people on the streets.
The Town Council’s budget for ‘youth funding’ in the coming financial year has now been set, subject to final approval, at a similar figure of £60,000.
But it appears that the Council has quietly “absorbed” the costs of other youth-related budget items into the ‘youth funding’ category, leaving just £37,455 available for whatever the two Councils decide should replace the axed youth club.
The “absorbed” items include £8,400 paid to a security firm to lock the gates of the Skate Park every night (a requirement of the lease), £4,000 to fund the lease and running costs of a minibus (purchased jointly with BSCS in February last year year) to ferry young people to the now defunct Brook Way Youth Club, £5,000 paid into reserves for future repairs of the Skate Park and £1,200 for youth activities at the Bradley Stoke Community Festival.
The Council also plans to fund a new £10,000 ‘youth service level agreement budget’ and a new £5,000 ‘youth grant budget’ out of the £60,000 but £3,945 of the former is to be used to fund agreements with Bradley Stoke Youth FC and Freespace (a summer holiday activity scheme) – expenditure previously outside of the ‘youth funding budget’.
The net result, using a ‘like-with-like’ comparison, is a reduction in funding of £24,045, i.e. 39% of the previous year’s budget.
Young people hoping for a possible re-opening of a traditional youth club in the town are likely to be disappointed. On 21st October 2011, before the much vaunted youth needs’ consultation had even begun, a special meeting of the Town Council agreed to lease the main rooms at Brook Way Activity Centre to the 1st Bradley Stoke Scout Group, with effect from 7th November and lasting until 31st March 2013.
The idea of moving the Scout Group into Brook Way had been first proposed by Cllr Ben Walker at a Full Council meeting on 21st September, where he suggested that the group (one of his mayoral charities for 2011/2012) be offered a rent set at 50% of what they were currently paying to hire rooms at Holy Trinity Church and Bradley Stoke Community School. The only voice of dissent came from Cllr Rob Jones, who warned that offering such a heavily subsidised rent to the Scouts would set a “dangerous precedent” that might lead to other hirers demanding similar terms.
Inspiration for the Council’s swing towards supporting uniformed youth groups looks to have come from Cllr Walker’s political companion Jack Lopresti MP, who advocated membership of groups like the Scouts and St John Ambulance in a press release put out following a parliamentary debate on the response to the summer riots.
Representatives of those two youth organisations were duly wheeled in to give presentations to the November meeting of the Bradley Stoke Safer and Stronger Communities Group, which is now chaired by a Conservative Town Councillor after SBCP’s Julie Close, who had led the group for many years, declined to seek re-election.
Photo: Mayor Ben Walker officially opens a new Cub pack and Scout troop at Bradley Stoke Community School in April 2011.
Footnote: The BSTC 2nd Draft Budget for 2012/2013 can be viewed in Appendix A of the draft minutes of a meeting of the BSTC Finance Committee held on 21st December 2011. Item 5078 contains a breakdown of ‘youth funding’.
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