Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly has warned that a radical shake-up of youth services in Staffordshire could result in the closure of youth centres, wide-ranging job losses and an end to the funding of key community projects.
His warning coincided with plans by youngsters in Chesterton in Newcastle for a demonstration next Monday against the cuts, demanding the County keeps ‘’hands off’ their brand new centre – Chesterton Vision – where the youth club has over 500 members.
Conservative-controlled Staffordshire County Council last month started a review of youth services, making it clear that it wants to withdraw from lots of existing buildings, and expects volunteers, charities and community groups to play a bigger role in running services.
“Such a wholesale shift would mean the end of a properly funded youth service in Staffordshire,” Mr Farrelly said. ‘Along with cuts to day services for adults with learning disabilities, and to libraries, another valued frontline service is now on the line because Government funding has been slashed.’
‘There’s also an ideological commitment to outsourcing at all costs, abandoning direct responsibility for running services,” he added.
In a letter to Philip Atkins, Leader of the County Council, Mr Farrelly said that despite launching its review, the authority had issued a paucity of information about the true scale of the likely changes.
Mr Farrelly is now demanding the complete list of every location in the County where youth services are currently provided for youngsters aged 13 to 19 - as well as those tailored to young people with a learning difficulty – and the numbers of people using them.
He has also asked how many youth service workers are affected and what, if any, input they have had into the review.
Chesterton Vision is a state-of-the-art centre, opened just a year ago, which Mr Farrelly visited recently to gauge opinion about the County’s review. As at other clubs in Newcastle, including Bradwell, Knutton and Silverdale, it has caused intense uncertainty about what the future will hold.
“From talking to youngsters at Chesterton Vision, I know just how much they have valued the help and advice from professional youth workers, whose future is now up in the air. The same goes for youth clubs all across the patch - they do not know who will be running them in the future,’ he said.
“The Council’s so-called ‘service reviews’ have become a cynical byword for cuts, closures and job losses ahead, as the Council reacts to deep and continuing cuts in spending inflicted by the coalition Government.”
Pictured above: Newcastle’s MP Paul Farrelly with members of the Youth Club Committee and youth workers at the Chesterton Vision Centre in Newcastle.