Young people protest about youth service cuts outside Hove Town Hall meeting

Posted On 09 Jan 2017 at 5:34 pm

Young people protested outside a council meeting this afternoon (Monday 9 January) about proposed cuts to the youth service in Brighton and Hove.

They want councillors to rethink proposals to cut £400,000 a year from the youth service budget. The money is currently spent on a contract with a consortium of local charities and community groups.

The voluntary sector groups use the council money as base funding or core funding which enables them to win extra cash from other organisations.

This means that Brighton and Hove City Council – and the young people – get much more benefit from their budget than if the youth service was provided solely by the council.

Council repairs

Some of the protesters asked a series of questions at the start of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee meeting at Hove Town Hall. They were answered by Councillor Tom Bewick who chairs the committee.

One youngster, Jack Stanford, said: “Youth clubs provide a safe community space for young people. For many youngsters it is the only place in their area they can go without risk of being harmed mentally or physically.

“If youth clubs are closed then where can young people go to benefit from and socialise in a safe open access environment?”

Some of the protesters outside Hove Town Hall

Some of the protesters outside Hove Town Hall

Another, Boudicca Pepper, asked how the proposed cuts tallied with Labour’s local manifesto pledge to eliminate youth unemployment by 2020.

The youngster also pointed out the financial benefits to the council of the preventive work carried out by the youth service.

Councillor Bewick said: “We’re challenged with setting a legal budget. We’ve got to balance the books. Unfortunately that’s resulted in a proposal to cut some of the youth service money.”

He said that the council was still looking for savings totalling about £2 million.

He said: “It’s really regrettable that we’re making this cut to the voluntary sector. As a council we’ve got to make some tough decisions.”

Councillor Bewick told Jack Stanford: “You’re absolutely right about the role that youth clubs play. There will still be youth clubs. The council is not the only funder. We’re proposing to cut some non-statutory voluntary youth work.”

Councillor Tom Bewick

Councillor Tom Bewick

He said that the council would still be supporting the most vulnerable and listed service such as the youth offending service and the youth employability service which would continue to spend a seven-figure sum between them on helping young people.

He also said: “We’ve continued to invest in early years and we have no plans to cut our investment in early years.”

Councillor Bewick told Boudicca Pepper: “Long-term youth unemployment locally has been down consistently in the past few years. Apprenticeships are up by 20 per cent in the past few years. There are no proposals to cut the youth employability service.”

In reply to a question from community campaigner Mitch Alexander, who urged the council’s Labour administration to stand up to the Conservative government, Councillor Bewick said: “There is not a single one of my colleagues who gets out of bed and thinks, ‘what can we cut now?’

“As someone who first came to the city as a foster child, I can tell you it pains me that as an administration we’re faced with making these cuts.

“We have to prioritise and pass a legal budget. This isn’t about the Labour administration somehow taking some pleasure in making government cuts. We’ll do our utmost to support the most vulnerable people in this city.”

  1. Daniel Harris Reply

    There was a young female from Blatchington Mill High School There as well, who asked with no Youth Workers who will I talk to at School? – Tom Bewick prompted for more into and the girl suggested domestic violence.

    Labour obviously are not supporting tory cuts, but they did hound the Green’s back in 2010 who had to issue cuts to services, now the shoes on the other foot, Labour are also blaming the Tories, shame they didn’t in 2010.

    Nonetheless the girl is right, have people seen the recent spate of historic sexual abuse, you take away from these services the number of victims increase, the numbers of kids going to prison or offending goes up, all a number of things change, we know investment in services for the youth is key, not cuts!

    I would like Tom Bewick to come out and stand up for the youth like has has done, but he also needs to scrutinise BHCC Civil Servants, we have many care leavers in emergency accommodation in the city, left to there own devices. Why are the Labour Council Focusing more on current providers for contracts and asking them to pay more and take less. There are massive savings to be made, lets try and use collaboration and imagination not blame.

  2. Jan Cosgrove Reply

    I put in a freedom of information and answers are coming back. The link is below. What has been achieved so far is that B&H have now accepted it is not a discretionary service, it is statutory. They have asked what ‘sufficiency’ of provision means, and I have advised them that it is based on quantity which relates to the number of qualifying young people in the B&H area, not on cost. You will see my action may well have prompted them to advise Cllrs.

    My advice is to read carefully and not to miss the opportunity to say, hey this is NOT discretionary. Remember this is not the only Council, huge damage has been done because people have accepted the discretionary status claim which simply is not true. B&H could be a vital test case. I will keep you informed of course and any useful data/info you glean please let me have this.

    What seems clear from this report is that Cllr Bewick has not yet grasped that this service is NOT discretionary, as he claimed previously, it is required BY LAW. There has been confirmation of this to me from the Government. I have warned B&H they risk legal challenge, for if they push ahead with these cuts and that leaves them unable to provide a sufficiency of service based on the numbers of qualifying young people, they will risk court action. They also by law MUST consult young people, I am told they will be doing this, so it has not yet happened and again if the consultation is shambolic they risk legal challenge. The Appeal Court has already had such a case.

    Young people rightly are organising but their parents too must get behind this. I might suggest Councillors look at their expenses btw if they want to cut. Last year they claimed between them £832,450.43. The basic allowance is £10,457.65 a year. For how many hours work each? If you are paid the living wage of £7.20 ph, that equates to an annual wage of £13104 for a 35 hour week. That’s 28 hours a week.

    This is about fairness, the keystone of Jeremy Corbyn’s approach on wage levels. How many Cllrs earn a living anyway, how many claim pension and benefits? Across the UK, young people have been at the roughest end of austerity. It is now time to challenge that. Also, when I write as National Secretary of an organisation to Councillor Bewick, I expect the courtesy of a reply, also from a comrade in the same party as myself.

    Here is the link to the full exchange.

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