Youth shake-up 'muddled and confused'
7:01am Wednesday 16th October 2013 in News
THE YOUTH centre shake-up in South Gloucestershire has been branded 'confused and muddled' with Thornbury and Yate's protracted takeovers described as having gone 'very wrong' in a damning report.
Faced with major funding cuts, the local authority chose to relinquish control of seven of its 13 youth clubs, including Thornbury and Yate, in September last year following a round of public consultation and asked private organisations to run them instead.
The move helped South Gloucestershire Council slash its youth budget by £889,000.
But delays, misunderstandings and lack of clear information plagued the takeover process, a review of the youth services overhaul has ruled.
Christian charity Krunch agreed to run Thornbury's youth club in 2012 but unexpected administrative problems meant the transition was far from smooth. The centre had to close from the end of March until August as funding from the local authority to the organisation failed to come in time.
In Yate and Chipping Sodbury, the town councils stepped in to help meet funding shortfalls. Yate Town Council was in a longstanding agreement with South Gloucestershire Council to fund the Armadillo youth cafe, which only opened in 2011, but the local authority has since given notification that it intends to stop financing the project.
Meanwhile, St Nicholas Church in Abbotswood, Yate took over the running a youth centre there and in Wickwar, residents were asked to make one-off donations to save the centre from closing.
The report, collated by council officers, flagged up the many shortcomings which hampered the decision-making and consultation process, explaining that not enough information was made available to either councillors, residents or the young people relying on the centres.
"Members' decisions were muddled due to unclear information, confusion and a local rather than strategic focus," officers wrote. "On the whole implementation has been OK but there have been some big holes. Hanham, Oldland, Thornbury and rural have gone very wrong.
"Yate had issues but these are being resolved."
They admitted a "lack of focus on what was important to young people."
Some families and staff were not made aware of the proposed changes to youth provision in due time and on one particular occasion, the "wrong information was provided to area forums", the bodies charged with distributing evenly the council's positive activities funding to all newly-privatised centres, the review found.
No-one was placed in overall charge of the project.
The change from a cabinet to committee system added to officers' workload slowing down the transition.
Cllr Rob Jones (Con, Bradley Stoke South), who sits on the Children and Young People Committee, said:
“This youth service shake-up has been an utterly shameful episode in South Gloucestershire Council’s history and local young people have been let down badly.
“No-one has been 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 wrong information being provided, parents not being told about the closures, staff being told late that they were being sacked - and you have the mother of all council shambles. We need to ensure lessons are learnt so this shocking saga can never happen again.”
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