Youth cut warning

AN EXPECTED cut in youth service funding across North Somerset will result in higher social benefit bills in towns such as Clevedon and Portishead, a youth leader has warned.

North Somerset Council has outlined a proposal to cut its �1million youth service core budget to �850,000 next year.

Then, by 2014/15, it plans a further reduction, down to about �600,000.

The impact, council officers have said, would mean the authority depending on community groups, parish and town councils and parents to help manage many of its 14 youth clubs.

The plan has been criticised by many council employees and charity youth workers, who fear the cuts will lead to a loss in provision for young people.

Neil Wylie, of the YMCA, in Marson Road in Clevedon, said any funding cut to the youth service would end up costing the authorities more in the long-term.

He said: “I understand we have to take austerity measures to deal with the country’s debt, but I fear cutbacks, such as in youth work, will mean greater costs in the future.

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“Youth clubs such as our own help bring down antisocial behaviour and improve the upbringing of many children from broken families.

“We help them inside and outside of school in a bid to assist them to live independent, adult lives. If services such as ours did not exist there would be many more people on social benefits.”

The YMCA branch runs five days a week, offering activities and learning for children of all ages.

Earlier this month, town PCSO Caroline Harris praised the charity’s work, claiming it played a positive effect on the number of antisocial behaviour incidents.

Mr Wylie said: “You look at areas like Clevedon and you may consider it to be a trouble-free middle class area, but you scratch a bit and you find the town has drink and drug problems like any other.”

Last week, North Somerset Council’s executive member for children and young peoples’ services, Jeremy Blatchford, defended the council’s proposal.

He said significant cuts were needed across the council board as part of a bid to save �18.7million this year.

It will contribute to a total �47million needed to be cut from the council’s budgets over the next four years.

A consultation - starting with the proposal outline sent to all town and parish councils – will be held before a decision is made.