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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.”