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Reprieve call for youth centres as closure decision is contested

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: April 09, 2014

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CUTS to youth services in the area could be halted at the last minute, after a group of opposition councillors asked for the matter to be reconsidered.

Staffordshire County Council agreed last month to remove youth services which it said were underused and out-of-date, leaving voluntary organisations to pick up the job. The move will save £8.7 million for the cash-strapped authority.

But Labour councillors serving on the authority have said this is not good enough, and that the council will be failing its statutory duty by making this move.

Peter Davies, who represents the Burton Trent division, told the Mail: “I understand that the county council is having to make cuts because central Government is cutting the funding, but my problem is it’s the young people that are being penalised.”

The authority has said that just a quarter of young people in the county access youth clubs and other services, though the number is significantly higher in East Staffordshire with almost 40 per cent using services.

If the cuts go ahead as planned, it will mean the removal of three youth centres in the area.

Councillor Mark Sutton, cabinet member for public health and community safety, said: “In the past the traditional youth centre was probably the only option and they and the staff who run them have undoubtedly served us well, but there is so much more choice available today and for this reason it is difficult to justify running a service which caters for only a quarter of young people.”

Funding will be available for each district so tailored services can be provided, though the amount will depend on need.

Councillor Davies added that he was concerned for the implications if services were removed.

“I’m worried that youngsters will not be kept off the streets, and there’s a distinct possibility that there may be a great incidence of anti-social behaviour,” he added.

The councillors’ request will be considered at the next meeting of Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet next week.

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