Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

West Sussex Tory Cabinet Member explains background to youth services cuts

West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families has extended the deadline for making a further £2 million saving in the Youth Services budget by an extra year.

The decision by Peter Evans is designed to give local communities wanting to run their own youth provision more time to work with the County Council on their proposals.

A report published today will see the service continue with its Youth Support and Development model aimed at targeting the county’s most vulnerable young people with centres based in areas of highest need.

Peter’s decision also lists centres where resources will be withdrawn by 2014/15 at the latest. The original timetable was to make the savings by 2013/14.

He said: “I think it is important to stress again the background to the very difficult decision that I have had to take.

“The County Council is facing the worst financial situation in its history and there is simply no alternative to reducing our spending by £79 million.

“We cannot spend money that we will not have due to the national reductions in grant support for local authorities. That means having to make some hard choices.

“It is how we make changes that is so important, and the Cabinet has stressed throughout that it will do its utmost to protect the most vulnerable people in West Sussex.

“In terms of Youth Services, we are doing just that by re-designing the service to concentrate its future budget on our most vulnerable young people whose lives are either already in crisis or could easily descend into that state.

“I am excited at the new service model for a Youth Support and Development Service.

“It means early intervention and prevention work with young people whose lives can easily descend into chaos, targeted support such as working with young people not in education, employment or training (known as NEETs), and specialist services to prevent offending or re-offending.

“I have nothing against clubs where young people can socialise and take part in activities. But, we have to face some harsh economic facts, and simply cannot afford to continue with the old model.

“That is why I am in favour or directing the resources we do have on helping turn young lives around, something that can only benefit the wider community.”

Peter said the youth centres facing having resources withdrawn by 2014/15 did not necessarily have to shut.

He added: “The recent consultation we conducted showed a strong level of support, 85 per-cent in fact, for the proposal that the voluntary sector could offer the provision of activities and facilities for young people.

“62 per-cent agreed with the view that the voluntary and community sector should be supported and encouraged to take over the running of youth provision, although they were less sure they had the capacity to take this on.

“We are making significant progress working with the voluntary and community sector and local management committees. That is why I am extending the timeframe for achieving the full £2 million saving from three to four years.

“I am also encouraged that 20 village based youth clubs have already been transferred to solely voluntary and community sector.

“The County Council’s new Community Asset Transfer policy is attracting a great deal of interest, and we are already working to progress several business plans that have been submitted and others are in the pipeline.

“I have made it clear in the past, and I will say it again, that my door is always open.”