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Parishes are looking at taking over or setting up youth clubs in Stafford, Stone and Rugeley after changes announced

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: March 20, 2014

Parishes are looking at taking over or setting up youth clubs in Stafford, Stone and Rugeley after changes announced

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YOUTH centres across Stafford, Stone and Rugeley could be taken over by parishes desperate to ensure services continue.

 Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet yesterday gave the go ahead to plans to “revamp” the service amid claims three quarters of young people do not use council youth services.

 It means the authority will move out of directly managing youth centres.

The move has left Staffordshire youth Parliament members so angry they are planning to "disinvite" county councillors from their awards presentations.

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 But a number of parish councils, including Doxey, are now looking at putting cash aside to ensure services continue for those aged 13 to 19.

The Doxey youth club, run in a church hall, has 35 young people on its books and council chairman David Adams described the withdrawal of county funding as a “short-sighted” decision.

“It would be a heck of a blow to Doxey to lose the youth club,” he said.

“It has taken a long time to get it up and running and it is a very well-used facility.”

 And Paul Gilbert, chairman of Colwich Parish Council, said they would consider running a youth centre in the village.

 He said: “In the past we have advertised locally for youth leaders to come forward, particularly in Great Haywood. We have got a hall there which is quite an extensive space which could be used for the youth centre."

But Councillor Rowan Draper said sports clubs and Duke of Edinburgh awards schemes - suggested by the country council as alternatives to youth clubs - were no real substitute.

"If you talk to any youth worker they will tell you that teenagers just want somethere to hang out with their mates," he said. 

He added that members of Staffordshire's Youth parliament were so angry at the closures that they planned to 'disinvite' county councillors when they held their annual awards presentations. 

 Meanwhile, the county council plans could also see up to 400 youth workers losing their jobs as the bosses look to save £2.8 million a year. Youth club buildings will be handed to the Strategic Property Unit, Staffordshire County of Voluntary Youth Services and other partners to look at the future usage and position of each property.

 But the news was greeted with anger by protesters, who gathered outside to show their opposition to the plans and shouted “shame on you” to councillors when the decision was made.

 Councillor Robbie Marshall, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, insisted the authority had listened closely during the consultation held in January and February, and had taken a 16,000 signature petition into account.

 He said they had modified the original plans as a result to provide each district with funding so they could tailor services to suit their area and demand.

 He said: “The majority of young people never use county council funded facilities or take part in activities funded by the council. We have to change and we have to adapt to each area. What is right for Cannock will not be right for South Staffordshire so each one will have a different offering based on local need.”

 Councillor Marshall said resources would also be used to ensure services and activities continued for vulnerable young people aged up to 25.  And he rubbished claims anti-social behaviour would rocket if centres closed.

 “In Northamptonshire, which has done a similar thing, they found incidents went down and crime steadily fell,” he added.

 Councillor Mark Sutton said: “It is not our intention to stop helping young people. We are just going to move out of directly providing youth clubs.”

 But speaking afterwards Staffordshire youth councillor Joe Porter, 17, said: “It is very disappointing and we will be campaigning against removing vital services for young people.

 “I do like the idea of each district being able to adapt their services but I don’t agree with stripping services right back. The whole area will suffer.”

 Michelle Williams, team leader for positive activities at Staffordshire County Council, said: “They say they don’t want youth clubs to close but we know it will happen.”

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