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.
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?”
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.”
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.”