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HONITON: County council confirm youth centre closure
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Funding for Honiton’s youth centre will now definitely be withdrawn, after county council bosses this week approved proposals to streamline the service. In a major cost-cutting move, Honiton’s centre – along with many others across the county – will close, leaving just eight ‘youth hubs’. While outreach and mobile services will continue, the nearest physical youth centre buildings to Honiton 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 Honiton Community College worked with town councillors to gather signatures for their own petition back in April, and more than 600 people offered their support to the campaign. 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. Town councillor Henry Brown, a former volunteer with the youth service, said: “The youth service has been paramount to the community for the last several decades but now it is suddenly being viewed as no longer a necessity. “The nearest of the proposed ‘hubs’ will now be in Exmouth which is clearly not accessible for young people in Honiton who need those resources.” Last month, Honiton Community College confirmed it was looking into the possibility of making a bid for the now defunct building. And discussions are still ongoing with other youth learning organisations in an effort to strike a deal. A working group has also been set up this week, including representatives from all three local authorities, to look into options for restoring services to the centre. 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 St Michael’s Day Centre and changes at Honiton 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: “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.” Any parties interested in discussing the building’s future are asked to contact Honiton Community College Finance Director Gary Wills on 01404 42283 or email firstname.lastname@example.org on.sch.uk
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