Youth clubs axed as council cuts continue

NADV 1502181AM Trax.(1502181AM)
NADV 1502181AM Trax.(1502181AM)

County Council budget cuts could spell the end of youth clubs if volunteers don’t come forward, councillors have warned.

Facing spending cuts of £22million in the next year, the council have been forced to stop some universal provision to create a new service targetting ‘high needs’ young individuals.

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has made 120 people redundant, including 61 youth workers, and is moving remaining staff to two central hubs in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

County Coun Bill Hoult (Lib Dem, Knaresborough) said: “There is a lot to go before April and the expectation is the same as with the libraries, that the community must pick it up.

“I feel that we are moving towards a cliff edge and services are just getting the chop.”

The county council said it consulted with 2,600 young people about the changes and they said money should be targeted on one-to-one work with young people who need help, and with families.

“The message was very clear that it shouldn’t impact on those most in need,” said acting principal officer of youth support services Paul Carswell.

Coun Hoult added: “They have consulted with children, yes, but not the whole community. I’m concerned at the way the cuts are being made almost with an axe, with no lead out time. The council say they can’t afford it, but they need to invest to recruit the volunteers.”

- TRAX youth centre on Station Bridge is set to close, and the council are looking to host drop-in sessions in town centre churches instead.

- In Bilton the council will continue to run a youth club, one night a week at the Bilton Youth Centre, down from three a week.

- At Starbeck Community and Youth Centre, the council will run one youth club night, and say they are in discussions with the Methodist Church regarding changes.

- At the Jennyfield Styan Community Centre, North Yorkshire Youth is set to take over the youth club in Jennyfield.

County Coun David Simister (UKIP, Bilton) said: “These cuts are going to have a devastating impact on the lives of many young, vulnerable people in Harrogate, in particular those who use TRAX and have dedicated youth workers.

“Job losses have already resulted in the number of half term activities being curtailed at youth centres, and this will be the norm for every school holiday in the future. The closure of TRAX in the town centre will come as a blow to many as it offered support and advice to a large number of teenagers. The future of youth clubs in the area is unclear.”

Mr Carswell said: “With careful setting up and planning there will be very little that we will lose, we will maybe see a reduction in frequency and that is where we will look to get the community involved. One of the things that strikes me about Harrogate is there is an incredible amount of community strength, people making things happen.”

However he admitted the council may struggle to recruit volunteers.

“Sometimes it is difficult to get people to volunteer to work with young people, it can be very challenging.”