Plea for openness over budget cuts

St Helens Star: Plea for openness over budget cuts Plea for openness over budget cuts

YOUTH workers, whose jobs are under threat, have called for St Helens Council to be open with the public about plans to close the town’s network of centres for young people.

Severe council budget cuts will see the axe fall on youth clubs and some children’s centre classes, as the Star reported last week.

The council admitted further Government funding cuts mean its youth and play budget is facing a 50 per cent reduction from next year.

But it said decisions are yet to be taken, and that talks with affected staff and youngsters who use the groups are ongoing.

However, one council employee, who asked not to be named, said: “We were called into a meeting a fortnight ago and told everything is closing.

“We have three youth centres that the council owns – Derbyshire Hill, Windlehurst and Grange Valley – which will shut.

“But there are also buildings used by the youth service across the town, such as in Rainhill, Rainford and Moss Bank. I’d say up to 15 venues will be affected.

“We were told everything will be moving to this massive building – the Beacon – on College Street.”

The council leader Barrie Grunewald made a pre-election pledge to create a new youth zone in St Helens town centre, with the Beacon the preferred location to be converted.

Unhappy youth workers allege the announcement was a cynical ploy to win votes – and that it failed to mention community youth centres were facing the axe.

One employee added: “The young people themselves don’t want their centres to close – when they are asked, they say they don’t want to go to the town centre, that their parents don’t have transport to take them, and that they can’t afford the bus fares.”

St Helens Council admits there will be reduction in the number of staff, but “every measure will be taken to offer redeployment and early retirement”.

The council has tried to play down cuts to mother and baby classes at children’s centres, after visitors were informed that some classes would be ceasing and a new system “targeting” those in greatest need would be rolled out.

A council spokesman added: “All service users have been involved in a consultation process to advise them of this.

“Over the summer holidays, all the sessions get reviewed anyway to take account of changing needs/requirements of service users, and this will happen again this year.”

Comments (3)

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10:46pm Thu 10 Jul 14

anthonywilson says...

Firstly: There isn't a specific budget from government given to local authorities for play work and youth work. There is an overall local government funding but its a political decision made in St Helens Town Hall to cut the youth work and play work budget by 50%.
Secondly when an election pledge was made concerning the development of a new youth facility for the town centre (a pre election pledge/statement by the local Labour party the announcement was suggestive that this would be a new purpose built building and this now turns out not to be the case at all. (Why is everything in St Helens a make do and mend approach? and quite clearly the electorate have been utterly deceived.
Thirdly, it now appears yet again that there is no real consultation (as suspected yet again) taking place as the decisions are all cut and dried.
Fourthly: The Beacon Building owned by the YMCA was built with European Funding and the Youth Service were originally based there but they moved out because of the cuts as the office space and meeting rooms was hired by the Council. This indicates a complete lack of long term thinking and strategy.
Finally, its also worth mentioning that the Beacon has no outside area for young people adjacent to it unlike two of the three centres due to close. It's therefore automatically restricted to young people doing indoor activities only that's unless there are plans to utilise the Ward Street car park as part of developing and remodelling the building?
Firstly: There isn't a specific budget from government given to local authorities for play work and youth work. There is an overall local government funding but its a political decision made in St Helens Town Hall to cut the youth work and play work budget by 50%. Secondly when an election pledge was made concerning the development of a new youth facility for the town centre (a pre election pledge/statement by the local Labour party the announcement was suggestive that this would be a new purpose built building and this now turns out not to be the case at all. (Why is everything in St Helens a make do and mend approach? and quite clearly the electorate have been utterly deceived. Thirdly, it now appears yet again that there is no real consultation (as suspected yet again) taking place as the decisions are all cut and dried. Fourthly: The Beacon Building owned by the YMCA was built with European Funding and the Youth Service were originally based there but they moved out because of the cuts as the office space and meeting rooms was hired by the Council. This indicates a complete lack of long term thinking and strategy. Finally, its also worth mentioning that the Beacon has no outside area for young people adjacent to it unlike two of the three centres due to close. It's therefore automatically restricted to young people doing indoor activities only that's unless there are plans to utilise the Ward Street car park as part of developing and remodelling the building? anthonywilson
  • Score: 1

9:12am Fri 11 Jul 14

mikeashworth says...

we'll reduce litter. litter now at its worst in ages.

we'll give you a nice shiny new youth centre for town centre. youth workers jobs under threats.

anyone else feeling like they've been mugged off?
we'll reduce litter. litter now at its worst in ages. we'll give you a nice shiny new youth centre for town centre. youth workers jobs under threats. anyone else feeling like they've been mugged off? mikeashworth
  • Score: 1

10:46am Fri 11 Jul 14

Hughwithaview says...

For all Barrie Grunewald's long winded sound bites I am beginning to think that half the decisions made at the Town Hall are scribbled on the back of a fag packet. This latest debacle over youth centres is just another in a long line of cover ups and misinformation. Is it any wonder that most of the electorate do not trust politicians when time after time they insult our intelligence and believe we will swallow any old flim flam.

How can the Council say "no decisions have been taken yet" when the staff involved have already been told the centres in question are closing and that they face either redeployment or early retirement?
(redeployment? - how much more can there be when they have already got rid of a substantial number of posts)

For goodness sake, will someone up those steps stand up and tell the truth for a change instead of avoiding a direct answer and blaming the Goverment (yet again) for everything from budget cuts to the pork pies going off!

The Beacon Centre is no replacement for those located within local communities - how are the young people expected to get into the town centre when they live so far from it. I believe it was not that long ago that the centre at Grange Valley underwent major refurbishment - now the plan is to close it. This Council often talks of the money which has been cut centrally but if you added up all the the money that it has wasted through lack of strategy, vision and proper planning, I reckon we should all be due to a rebate on our Council Tax.

Of course there could be yet another ulterior motive in this - perhaps the idea is to attract less use of youth services at the Beacon, which is quite possibly going to be the outcome given it's location, then 6 to 12 months down the line the Council can say the service is underused and no longer viable etc etc
Does this sound familiar?

Well, if they are prepared to do it with Care Homes for the elderly suffering with dementia I am sure they will have no qualms regarding the young.
For all Barrie Grunewald's long winded sound bites I am beginning to think that half the decisions made at the Town Hall are scribbled on the back of a fag packet. This latest debacle over youth centres is just another in a long line of cover ups and misinformation. Is it any wonder that most of the electorate do not trust politicians when time after time they insult our intelligence and believe we will swallow any old flim flam. How can the Council say "no decisions have been taken yet" when the staff involved have already been told the centres in question are closing and that they face either redeployment or early retirement? (redeployment? - how much more can there be when they have already got rid of a substantial number of posts) For goodness sake, will someone up those steps stand up and tell the truth for a change instead of avoiding a direct answer and blaming the Goverment (yet again) for everything from budget cuts to the pork pies going off! The Beacon Centre is no replacement for those located within local communities - how are the young people expected to get into the town centre when they live so far from it. I believe it was not that long ago that the centre at Grange Valley underwent major refurbishment - now the plan is to close it. This Council often talks of the money which has been cut centrally but if you added up all the the money that it has wasted through lack of strategy, vision and proper planning, I reckon we should all be due to a rebate on our Council Tax. Of course there could be yet another ulterior motive in this - perhaps the idea is to attract less use of youth services at the Beacon, which is quite possibly going to be the outcome given it's location, then 6 to 12 months down the line the Council can say the service is underused and no longer viable etc etc Does this sound familiar? Well, if they are prepared to do it with Care Homes for the elderly suffering with dementia I am sure they will have no qualms regarding the young. Hughwithaview
  • Score: 1

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