Conservatives at South Gloucestershire Council call for probe into shambolic handling of youth centre shake-up
A PROBE into the region's "shambolic" youth centre shake-up is set to be launched.
Following the local authority's failure not only to keep centres open but to inform parents and even staff of various clubs' impending closures, Conservative councillors have called for an investigation into the botched youth services overhaul.
South Gloucestershire Council’s director of children, adults and health has agreed to produce a ‘lessons learned’ report but the party is considering pushing for an independent body to scrutinise the whole privatisation process.
The district announced last year it would relinquish control of seven of its 13 youth centres from April 2013, in a bid to make savings of more than £1 million and invite private firms or volunteer groups to run them instead. It agreed however to set money aside which each centre could bid for each year.
The centres that failed to secure new owners have been forced to shut indefinitely.
Cllr Rob Jones (Con, Bradley Stoke South) branded the handling of the youth services overhaul ‘the mother of all council shambles’.
"We need an inquiry – possibly an independent inquiry - to ensure lessons are learnt so this can never happen again," he said. "The good and original idea of opening up access to the council’s youth budget and funding a more flexible service on a fairer geographical basis has been marred by the inept implementation.
"No-one seems to be in overall charge of this service shake-up and so you’ve had different council departments doing different things."
He added: "Add to that u-turns on funding, the fact that parents haven’t been told that various youth centres have closed, that cleaning staff have only just been told that they might not have a job, that youth workers haven’t been told what their employment rights are if they transfer to a different provider - and you have the mother of all council shambles."
Thornbury Centre shut last week after administrative delays prevented charity Krunch from taking it over as soon as its funding ran out. It is due to reopen but not before the summer.
As part of the review, council officers will investigate why parents were not told that various youth centres would close and why cleaning staff were only told on March 6, mere days in advance, that their services would no longer be needed.
Councillors also demanded the local authority explain why no-one was appointed to coordinate and oversee the changes in service as a whole during the transition period.
Several departments were instead put in charge, according to Cllr Jones of different aspects of the transfer but have so far failed to liaise efficiently.
A council spokesman said: "This work was part of a complex series of projects and in line with standard good practice we will be carrying out a review to identify any lessons to be learned. We will report back to elected members on the outcomes of the review in due course.”