Bradley Stoke Councillors fight to keep youth centres open

The Brook Way Youth Club in Bradley Stoke has closed.

Councillors in Bradley Stoke are fighting to keep youth centres across South Gloucestershire open – despite voting to close their town’s only youth club just fourteen months ago.

Under proposals published earlier this year, South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) said it was planning to transfer control of all its youth centres to locally-based organisations. Any youth centres that failed to attract a sponsoring organisation would be “decommissioned”.

The reorganisation is part of SGC’s plans to slash spending on ‘universal access’ youth services by 46% over two years.

A public consultation that ran from March to May found that only 31% of respondents agreed with the Council’s proposals for ‘universal provision’ of youth services, while just 25% of young people agreed with the Council asking other organisations to run youth centres.

“In view of the responses to the proposals on universal provision from a significant number of respondents,” Council officers were asked to come up with alternative options and these were presented to a meeting of SGC’s Children and Young people Committee on 25th July.

When it came to a vote, Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors succeeded in gaining majority agreement for an amendment to the original proposals that would see centre-based youth provision safeguarded in the Council’s six designated Priority Neighbourhoods (Cadbury Heath, Filton, Kingswood, Patchway, Staple Hill and Yate/Dodington), leaving a smaller pot of money to be distributed around the other areas. However, immediately after the vote, Conservative members of the Committee invoked a new constitutional procedure to refer the decision to Full Council.

A “crunch meeting” of the Full Council being held tonight in Kingswood will now be asked to choose between the same three options previously put to the Committee. Depending on the outcome, the 1,839 young people aged 13-19 living in Bradley Stoke and Stoke Lodge will be assigned a ‘positive activities’ subsidy of between £7,551 (option 2b, distributed according to deprivation) and £32,228 (option 1, distributed according to population).

Speaking on Radio Bristol this morning, Cllr Robert Jones, Conservative Councillor for the Bradley Stoke South district ward and a Bradley Stoke Town Councillor, said:

“What we’re looking for is fairness.”

“We’d like to see a level playing field being created for all young people in South Gloucestershire.”

“The Conservatives are the only party who want to keep all the youth centres open.”

Cllr Ian Blair, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Yate North, countered:

“As budgets are reduced, Councils will be forced into putting their resources into supporting the vulnerable and deprived.”

Bradley Stoke’s Brook Way Youth Club was closed at the end of October 2011 after the Town Council terminated the contract with its appointed operator, Southern Brooks Community Partnership.

Since then, SGC youth workers have been going out onto the streets on three nights a week to engage with young people congregating at places such as the skate park and the Willow Brook Centre.

The street work has been supplemented by six hours of activity sessions each week at Baileys Court Activity Centre and Bradley Stoke Community School.

Young people have also been “signposted” to Little Stoke Youth Centre, where SGC has been funding two part-time youth workers to provide a Bradley Stoke club night.

As Little Stoke does not lie within one of SGC’s Priority Neighbourhoods, it now faces an uncertain future as none of the options on the table would see SGC continuing to run it.

Cllr Keith Cranney, Conservative Councillor for the Stoke Gifford district ward and a Bradley Stoke Town Councillor, said:

“Little Stoke Youth Centre does a tremendous job and it’s already one of the most popular centres in the district.”

“But it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if Labour and Lib Dem councillors succeed in more than halving this ‘positive activities’ budget, then the chances of Little Stoke Youth Centre remaining open also more than halves.”

“Like many local people, I look forward to hearing a justification from Labour and Lib Dem councillors as to why they seem hell-bent on stacking the odds against Little Stoke, Thornbury, Hanham youth centres and others staying open to serve local youngsters.”

More info: Agenda for tonight’s SGC Full Council meeting

Little Stoke Youth Centre, Little Stoke Lane, Stoke Gifford, Bristol.

Photo: Little Stoke Youth Centre – under threat of closure.

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  1. Just listened to the Radio Bristol interview with the Lib Dem and Tory cllrs and was disappointed with the lack of explanation as to why youth clubs are closing.

    I guess that the reduced amount of money available to councils is resulting in the youth service being cut. This either means cuts across the board or some sort of prioritising takes place. The Lib Dems and Labour appear to favour targeting resources at the 6 most “deprived” areas in South Glos, whereas the Tories want to spread the cuts across the whole area. I hope that I’ve got it right.

    Historically, Bradley Stoke got very little from South Glos for youth service provision and therefore BSTC spent almost £60 supporting youth services in the town. The Tories have reduced this amount since they took control of the town council and closed all the youth clubs.

    Now the Tories are the largest party on South Glos, it appears they now want to do the same to the whole area, not just Bradley Stoke. There is no way, on a reducing budget will all the clubs in South Glos be able to stay open. The only sensible way to manage this difficult situation is for those areas of deprivation to receive “protection” and a better chance to keep their youth clubs a going concern, supporting the more vulnerable young people in our area.

    Let’ hope the Lib Dems and Labour can out vote the Tories at tonight’s meeting and save at least some of the youth provison across the area.

  2. Lib Dems and Labour got their way in the end, meaning that youth centres in the Priority Neighbourhoods will be safeguarded.

    The sum available to the non-priority areas was increased from £227,000 to £437,700, by transferring money from another budget.

    Read more: Council agrees to continue funding youth centres in Priority Neighbourhoods (South Glos Post).

    Hear Bradley Stoke Councillor Rob Jones speaking about the decision on BBC Radio Bristol:

    (available until 18th September 2012)

    The future of Little Stoke Youth Centre remains uncertain but Cllr Ernie Brown, Chair of Stoke Gifford Parish Council told the BBC before Monday’s meeting that the Parish Council is prepared to take over the running of the centre.

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