Funds earmarked by town council to continue youth clubs

Money has been set aside by a town council to keep a youth club running when Shropshire Council pulls its funding next March.

Market Drayton Town Council said it would provisionally earmark £21,000 for the next financial year, which could be used to allow the current two sessions a week provided at the Phoenix Centre to continue.

But members said they would not make a definite commitment to funding the clubs until more information was available.

Town clerk Julie Jones told a meeting of the council’s services and facilities committee on Thursday that a final decision could be made at a later date as long as the money was included in the committee’s budget, which was to be set later in the meeting.

The town council already provides one youth club session at the Zone on Monday evenings, while those at the Phoenix Centre are held on Wednesdays, funded by Shropshire Council.

The unitary council has announced it will no longer pay for youth clubs after the current financial year, and will instead fund a team of detached youth workers in a reorganisation aimed at targeting the most vulnerable young people.

It means youth clubs across the county are facing the threat of closure unless town and parish councils or other organisations agree to pick up the tab.

Councillor Mike Smith asked what the pre-Covid attendance was at the two Phoenix Centre sessions, and whether they could be moved to the Zone.

Councillor David Minnery, who also sits on Shropshire Council’s cabinet as portfolio holder for finance, said: “I don’t have the figures in front of me but I do recall that earlier in the year there was quite a bit of detail that was given during the discussion that we had at cabinet.

“I can’t remember the precise figures but I do remember somebody from SYA was saying they had more people than could be easily accommodated at the Zone.

“They didn’t think for one moment that it was a suitable replacement and I don’t suppose that will have changed.

“With the Covid situation maybe the headcount is down at the moment, but of course when we get back to normal I’m sure the headcount will be back up.

“Anything other than continuing the same provision is going to be a reduction, which isn’t something that I personally would be in favour of.

“As an overall percentage of our budget it isn’t really a frightening amount of money – 20 odd thousand out of the £500,000 plus that we are spending every year – for the benefit that it produces.”

Councillor Steve Glover said the council should not commit the money until a breakdown of expenditure and attendance figures could be assessed, pointing out the £21,000 quoted by SYA did not include building hire.

Mayor Roy Aldcroft said he agreed that “we need to take action to keep this going”.

He said: “I too am in favour of this expenditure simply because we have got to invest in youth.

“If job prospects are not too good and schools are upside down it’s quite important that youngsters have got a place where they can go and get safeguarded and get advice and support when they need it from an independent service.”

Councillors unanimously agreed to earmark the money in the budget and invite a representative from SYA to a future meeting to discuss the future of the clubs.

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