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