I was heartened to note whilst reading TheYamYam earlier today, Walsall Labour Group had issued an unusually strong statement on the future of Walsall Council’s Youth Services and Aldridge Manor youth club, discussed here so much lately.
The statement is good to see, and I agree with the points made by Councillor Cassidy.
It’s nice to know there is finally some political opposition to this and that it will be fought. I reproduce the statement here, but it can also be read on the Labour Group’s website. Whilst the idea that we should welcome change might be superficially appealing, a quick look an Linda Mason’s last great blog post on the subject shows just a few of the unanswered questions regarding the Manor and wider service provision.
There is way too much at stake here to risk trashing everything on the off chance the alternative may work. We need more information, less evasiveness and a more permanent solution.
Don’t forget there’s a public meeting on the matter, arranged by Walsall Council, which will take place this Thursday, 13th June from 6pm to 8pm at Aldridge Manor House, Little Aston Road, Aldridge, WS9 8NJ.Walsall Labour’s statement reads:
Protests at Pop Up Youth Clubs.
Plans to move youth clubs into empty premises such as former shops are under scrutiny after concerns Walsall council is to sell off its best equipped and most successful youth base. The sale of the Manor House in Adridge under a ‘pop up’ service has sparked fears youth provision will suffer, leaving at youngsters at risk of becoming involved in petty crime.
The scheme would see youth clubs being set up in temporary facilities in areas where anti-social behaviour had been indentified as a problem.The programme is already being rolled out in Birchills but the proposed sale of the long established Aldridge Manor House has led to complaints that local communities have not been properly consulted.
Walsall council’s plan would see empty properties being used as temporary clubs while youth workers address social and protection issues of children in the area. The council says the scheme will reach out to youngsters who don’t use the present service and allow professional staff to intervene with at risk children before moving on to other areas.
Opponents fear the sale of youth clubs is motivated by the council’s need to make up for government cuts in local authority funding and would see the best equipped premises in the borough disappear.
Councillor Barbara Cassidy, Labour’s spokesperson for childrens’ services, said the council had clearly to failed to properly consult youngsters, parents and wider communities.
‘This does not just impact on Aldridge, it’s a concern for parents and youngsters across the borough and the council should hold similar meetings in all wards. So far, its reliance on social media such as facebook and twitter to inform people, has been about as effective as sending out notices by carrier pigeons. How many children, let alone adults, regularly log on to the council’s websites? This is just another example of the council’s appalling record on consultation, of pushing through policies without giving enough notice or listening to the concerns of local communities. You shouldn’t just pay lip service to people’s very real concerns.’
Cllr Cassidy welcomed the fact that following public complaints the council has reluctantly agreed to a public meeting on the service’s future but added: “There are a lot of conflicting messages coming out of the council. On one hand, the council has admitted in the past that the sale of the Manor House is motivated by cuts in government funding. It has also been said their plan is to spend more money on services and less on buildings, including maintenance on buildings described as no longer fit for purpose. They claim the service will be better delivered by a ‘pop up’ service but is that at the expense of long term provision?
‘Over the years the council has invested millions in these clubs in terms of buildings, equipment, staff training and expertise but is right to abandon that investment? We need to invest in our youngsters; we need to address the issues and risks they face. We don’t need a service that’s pushed through with no real attempt at consultation with the wider community.’