Further cuts to youth budget averted

A CONTROVERSIAL decision to spend nearly £200,000 of the already diminished young people’s budget on costly administration fees has been reversed.

Last week, a majority of Lib Dem and Labour South Gloucestershire councillors agreed to take £179,000 from the £437,700 positive activities fund, to be allocated to youth centres in April 2013 when they become privately-run, to hire a firm to handle the transition period.

Yet, the move opposed by Conservatives, who argued that the admin fees should be paid by out of the local authority’s corporate budget, was thrown out this week.

Members of the policy and finance committee agreed on Monday to find other sources of funding and to reinstate £135,000 to the Positive Activities pot.

Cllr John Calway (Con, Longwell Green), said: "This partial climb-down from the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups will be welcomed by youngsters up and down the district who are determined to keep their youth clubs open."

The council agreed to retain control of six of its 13 clubs in September but set aside a sum of money the remaining seven groups would be able to bid for when they were privatised in 2013. These centres include those in Thornbury, Chipping Sodbury, Winterbourne, Wickwar and Severn Beach.

Last week, Lib Dem and Labour had voted, reluctantly they said, to slice the youth budget explaining it was a necessary evil.

According to the two parties, private providers and voluntary organisations interested in taking over the youth clubs had been reluctant to fully come forward as they had receive no indication of the amount they might receive from the council's positive activities fund.

With the local authority's outdated computer system unable to assess positive activities grants and estimate how much private organisations may be entitled to when they take control of the centres, Lib Dem and Labour felt money should be spent on hiring a specialised firm able to process their applications before April as soon as possible.

Labour Cllr Gareth Manson (Woodstock) welcomed the fact that necesasry youth funds had been safeguarded and a compormise reached. He however blamed the government for forcing councils to slash their budgets in the first place.

"The Tories should remember that the council is having to make these tough decisions about the future of youth centres because their own government is cutting our funding by 28 per cent," he said.

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