Suffolk youth clubs closures and ‘divestment’ confirmed
SUFFOLK County Council is to withdraw from running youth clubs as it attempts to save money, it has been decided.
The council's cabinet confirmed it is to close, or divest, council youth clubs over the next three years in a bid to save �850,000 from its budget.
County councillor with responsibility for children and young people Graham Newman said the youth clubs catered for less than 1pc of the young people who were eligible to attend them – and that the county's increasingly scarce financial resources would be better targeted at specific youth projects.
However, some of the more successful youth clubs could be taken over by community groups, church groups, or parish councils and a 'divestment fund' was being set up to help community groups achieve that.
Mr Newman said there were 53,000 youngsters eligible to use youth clubs in the county, but a survey over the summer found that less than 500 actually used them.
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He added: 'However, some clubs are quite well used and are valued within their communities, and it is these that we want to encourage communities to take over.'
Labour group leader Sandy Martin was concerned about the size of the divestment fund to be used to help communities take over their youth clubs.
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'We don't know the size of this – but they have said it is 'quite small',' he said. 'That is a matter of real concern.'
Leiston councillor Richard Smith was surprised to see that his local club was listed as having an average attendance of between seven and eight because he had been told there were about 15 people at each session.
But he had concerns about how the clubs had been run. 'Leiston Youth Club looks very good and about �10,000 had been spent recently on a 'chill out' room which was not in use when I visited,' he said.
'Another �8,000 had been spent on a new computer room but although it is right next to the school there was no broadband connection so the computers were never used.'
Mr Smith added that although youngsters enjoyed Leiston's youth club, there were many other organisations in the town which offered them meaningful activities out of school hours.
Julia Truelove, of the county council's Liberal Democrat group, said: 'We know tough choices have to be made but we have to ensure that support is given to the youth Connexions service.'
She said money needed to be targeted at youngsters who were leaving school and failing to go on to work or further education in the county.
The cabinet unanimously endorsed the proposal to close or 'divest' youth clubs over the next three years.