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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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OTTERY: Youth centre closure confirmed
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Funding for Ottery St Mary’s Station Youth Centre is now certain to be withdrawn, after county council bosses this week approved proposals to streamline the service. In a major cost-cutting move, Ottery’s centre – along with many others across the county – will close in September, leaving just eight ‘youth hubs’. While outreach and mobile services will continue, along with the Youth Participation and ‘REACH’ support teams, the nearest physical youth centre buildings to Ottery will be as far away as Exmouth and Exeter. During an extensive public consultation on the changes, more than 200 comments were made on the council’s website and five petitions were formally submitted. Students from The King’s School and youth centre users worked with town councillors to oppose the changes. And one young campaigner presented a pair of plastic spectacles to each member of the cabinet at their meeting on Wednesday (June 11th), to indicate that the move was “short-sighted”. But efforts to save the service ultimately proved unsuccessful after county councillors gave the go ahead for the proposals, which are due to contribute towards their £110 million savings target. Meanwhile, young people fighting to save the service have vowed to continue their campaign. George Downs, Member of the Youth Parliament for East and Mid Devon, said there was “no intention” to give up the fight. He added: “Frequent direct action will continue along with media projects and legal consultation. In this way we will work towards securing a future for all young people in Devon.” Despite the backlash against the proposals, which coincide with planned cuts to Ottery’s children’s centre and library, the county council’s cabinet member for young people Councillor James McInnes said the authority had “listened carefully” to feedback before making the decision. He said: “This council is fully committed to continuing to protect, nurture and support our young people and we fully recognise the value of local youth services to our communities. “But with public funding getting ever tighter, we have no choice but to look very carefully at everything we do and to make sure we get the most from every penny we spend. “For the Devon Youth Service not to wither away over time we have to be creative and bold in order to keep what is most important while putting things on a more sustainable basis. “Open access youth centres are not a statutory function and improving our targeted early intervention work with the most vulnerable young people has to be the top priority. “I believe our solution offers the best opportunity to both target our limited resources on the most vulnerable whilst harnessing the capacity and expertise of a professional youth service to help build local networks and support the development of local community-based provision.”
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