A ST HELENS Council managed secure unit for young offenders faces the axe in a move that will cost 156 jobs Newton-le-Willows based Red Bank community home, right, will shut the local authority has confirmed.

Town Hall bosses say it is because Youth Justice Board (YJB) intends to move contracts to other parts of the country.

St Helens Council leader Barrie Grunewald is vowing to fight the closure and with the loss of so many jobs, he is also calling on the government to intervene.

A time frame for the closure has not been given, however, when the axe falls it will be another significant loss of council jobs for St Helens Council, which has shed more than 1300 positions in recent years.

The council’s chief executive Carole Hudson has written to the Youth Justice Board expressing the council’s concern and to seek information on potential implications for young residents and staff.

Red Bank, which has both secure and open units, provides placements for boys and girls aged between 10 and 17.

It offers full residential care, educational facilities and healthcare provision.

Some of the offenders serving sentences there have committed grave crimes. John Venables, one of James Bulger’s killers, spent time there as child prisoner.

Councillor Sue Murphy, chairwoman of Red Bank Controlled Community Home Body of Managers and cabinet member for schools, said she was shocked and saddened by the announcement: “This is tragic. It’s a lot of jobs lost in a specialist area where there is already not enough provision in the country.

“Red Bank has given many years of specialist service looking after very vulnerable and high profile young offenders.”

However, the Youth Justice Board appeared to challenge the council’s version of events, suggesting the closure was a decision being made locally.

Lin Hinnigan, YJB chief Executive said: “The reduction in demand for secure children’s home places in the young people’s secure estate is the key driver for the YJB reducing the number of places. Secure children’s homes are owned and managed by local authorities, who have responsibility for their operation. Decisions about homes’ futures will be taken by the local authority.

“The YJB will seek to minimise disruption to children currently placed at Red Bank and will work closely with the home to ensure that individual plans are put in place for each young person, enabling as few as possible to require transfers.”