Star comment: Services for young could go
The long retreat continues. In a climate of squeezed public finances, Shropshire Council has been cutting this and that adrift, leaving local communities to pick up the pieces and band together to keep things going which were once provided by the authority.
In such circumstances the council is having to be clear about its priorities, about what is really important, and what it can and must keep funding.
Shropshire’s young now know where in the pecking order they come. And it is nowhere near the top.
On the national political scene, there is a view you hear expressed that today’s young generation are the first which stands to be worse off than their parents’ generation. When it comes to youth clubs and so on in Shropshire, it is true.
Youth clubs have filled a need for young people who, in a familiar complaint, would say they were “bored” and “there’s nothing to do” in such-and-such place. Problems of vandalism and anti-social behaviour would be regularly linked to the lack of “anything to do.”
Shropshire is reverting to a situation in which many young people in rural areas face being left to their own devices. Sorry, the council is saying – as it surely would prefer not to be making the cuts that it is making – but we cannot help you.
We could be heading for a scenario in which councils effectively scrub out youth services altogether from the list of things they offer. Once that happens, it will be difficult to reverse, should there ever come a time when councils are able to spend more freely.
The council will continue to provide arm’s length support, funding Shropshire Youth Association, a charity which helps youth clubs set up and keep going, and also the sports partnership Energize.
Of course, in those rural places where the council is seeking to pull the funding plug, local volunteers could step into the breach. The difference is one of security, as without the safety net of council cash, they simply cannot be sure where the next pound is coming from.