Nailsea and Portishead girls lead youth demo

TEENAGERS from Nailsea and Portishead led an angry march protesting at proposed cuts to the district’s youth service.

More than 30 young people, also from youth clubs in Clevedon, Pill and Weston, braved heavy rain to carry placards from the Grand Pier, in Weston, to North Somerset Council’s town hall.

Once there, Nailsea School pupils Sophie Miles, aged 15 and Molly Ashman, aged 14, who organised the demonstration with 18-year-old Charlie Lane from Portishead Youth Club, handed over a 600-signature petition to North Somerset Councillor Mike Bell in support of Nailsea’s Youth House.

Senior officers are recommending cutting the youth worker budget by 100 per cent and redirecting �280,000 a year to fund targeted work to help vulnerable young people.

The plans would see all current youth workers removed from their posts and youth centres stripped of all funding.

The council will look to other community organisations, such as scouts, guides, cadets and church groups as well as town and parish councils to help plug the gap in provision.

Nailsea Youth House, in High Street, is open six days a week after school and some evenings, entertaining about 40 teenagers at each session.

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It’s six part-time staff will lose their jobs and the people who use it have been told it will close at the end of March.

Molly said: “The Youth House means a lot to me and Sophie because it’s a place to meet new friends and there are a lot of things for us to use like computers, a drum kit, DJ equipment and games consoles.

“Without it we would not have anywhere to go.

“The youth workers that run it are great and they help us with our problems.”

The Greenfield Crescent resident said the march ‘went really well’ and hopes the attention it generated will change the council’s mind.

North Somerset union UNISON joined protestors and added its weight to the fight.

Service conditions officer Helen Thornton said: “It is a very difficult issue as they have to make cuts but we think it’s disproportionately affecting children and young people.

“The council has an obligation to consult service users but the young people who attend the youth groups haven’t been asked what they want.

“We won’t let it slide – we as a union will continue to demonstrate at the next council meetings.”

The authority’s executive member for children and young people’s services, Cllr Jeremy Blatchford, who spoke to the teenagers outside the town hall, said: “The council welcomes young people engaging in local democracy but it doesn’t mean we agree with them.

“What we have got is young people who like their youth clubs who have been told that they are closing but they are not.

“We are arranging for other people to pay for them and operate them in a different way.

“The present system is very structured with some amazing people running the clubs but who have piles of restrictions upon them.

“The number of people who use the youth clubs is actually very small.

Mr Blatchford added the council hopes the not-for-profit organisations who take the clubs over will operate at least six days a week.

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