Char­ity pro­posal for youth cen­tres

Bath Chronicle - - NEWS - Stephen Sum­ner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter @stephen­sum­ner15 | 07741 295876 stephen.sum­ner@x

The fu­ture of three youth cen­tres in Bath and North East Som­er­set looks se­cure. Af­ter slash­ing its £1 mil­lion Youth Con­nect bud­get in half last year, the coun­cil is con­sid­er­ing set­ting up a pub­lic ser­vice mu­tual - a char­ity that would op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently and gain the au­thor­ity’s core con­tract for de­liv­ery of youth ser­vices. It would man­age the Southside youth hub. Bath and North East Som­er­set coun­cil has been in talks with Men­tor­ing Plus about run­ning the city’s River­side fa­cil­ity, and with church work­ers about the Pease­down St John youth hub. Coun­cil­lor Paul May, the cab­i­net mem­ber for chil­dren and young peo­ple, told the cab­i­net meet­ing last week: “If this is go­ing to be suc­cess­ful it has to go for­ward at the cur­rent level of fund­ing. “Over a num­ber of years the coun­cil’s bud­get has been cut and cut and cut. “We need to a keep a ded­i­cated youth ser­vice that’s tar­geted to the great­est need. “We are also work­ing closely with the vol­un­tary sec­tor. The River­side pro­pos­als have moved for­ward and we’re work­ing very ef­fec­tively with Men­tor­ing Plus there. Pease­down St John is mov­ing for­ward in a re­ally pos­i­tive way with the church. “The Youth Con­nect ser­vice would be lo­cated in Southside. There are vi­a­bil­ity is­sues as it’s a com­mer­cial build­ing.” Cllr May said the coun­cil wants to sup­port the staff but not at the ex­pense of tax­pay­ers so there will be “due dili­gence” checks on whether the mu­tual is the best way for­ward. A re­port to the cab­i­net meet­ing says: “The pub­lic ser­vice mu­tual would have the op­por­tu­nity to se­cure ad­di­tional fund­ing and grow ser­vices for young peo­ple into the fu­ture, thereby grad­u­ally be­com­ing less de­pen­dent on core coun­cil fund­ing.” One al­ter­na­tive to the mu­tual would be B&NES Coun­cil keep­ing Youth Con­nect in-house, but it would have less ac­cess to fund­ing like lot­tery grants un­der that model. Or it could bring in an ex­ter­nal provider, but this would cause “sig­nif­i­cant” de­lays and could im­pact on the good­will of staff en­cour­aged to back the mu­tual model. Lib­eral Demo­crat group leader Dine Romero said: “I think this [the mu­tual] looks like a good pro­posal, but I’m not con­vinced. This is be­ing driven first and fore­most by the coun­cil’s needs to make cuts. “In do­ing so, pre­ven­ta­tive ser­vices have been put at risk. This is a very small ser­vice that re­lies on an un­known source of fund­ing. Will it be got rid of like the arts de­vel­op­ment ser­vice? Or go to an ex­ter­nal provider like Vir­gin? “The most vul­ner­a­ble need pro­tec­tion. The youth ser­vices are too im­por­tant to be run en­tirely sep­a­rately from the lo­cal au­thor­ity.” Cllr Romero said the de­ci­sion should be made in pub­lic af­ter the coun­cil can scru­ti­nise the busi­ness case for the staff mu­tual but was told it would be com­mer­cially sen­si­tive. Cllr Eleanor Jack­son said the coun­cil needs to lis­ten to what young peo­ple want rather than dic­tat­ing it to them, adding: “They want to learn things. They want to get qual­i­fi­ca­tions. They want to have a mean­ing­ful fu­ture. We want them to achieve their po­ten­tials. “I think what is pro­posed given that aus­ter­ity still reigns - is the best way for­ward. I think it’s the best of the worst.” Cllr Karen War­ring­ton, cab­i­net mem­ber for trans­for­ma­tion and cus­tomer ser­vices, said: “I’m al­ways very keen that peo­ple should be able to run their own or­gan­i­sa­tions. We want to sup­port our Youth Con­nect ser­vice.” Cab­i­net mem­bers backed the con­ver­sion of Youth Con­nect into a mu­tual. Coun­cil of­fi­cers will carry out due dili­gence checks on the pro­posal.

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