Speaking up for young people in Cornwall

Posted on: 24th November 2014

Speaking up for young people in Cornwall at Full Council tomorrow, during the budget debate. Below you will find what I plan to say, although it could be subject to change, on the day.

I am proposing a modest amendment to the proposed budget. It is based on a concern about young people, especially some from poorer backgrounds who bump along the bottom, in terms of the cards life deals them. I’m speaking up for the kids that do not excel at school but are not too much of a nuisance either and some of them are almost invisible. These services are used predominately by young people just below the threshold of targeted and specialist youth services but many will have similar life experiences.

Let’s start with the numbers. We are asking that £713,000 of the £950,000 saving for directly provided open access youth services and the £92,000 saving on the anti-bullying programme be deferred a year to 16/17. This to be funded by a one off saving of £805,000 from the roads maintenance budget in 15/16 but because we are only asking for the youth services reduction in savings to be deferred, over the 4 budget cycle the savings required on roads maintenance remains the £900,000 originally proposed by the Cabinet.

3 months notice of removal of funds will not allow other partners and local communities to apply for funding to fill essential gaps. My conversations with partners suggest they can mitigate the risks to young people, if we withdraw this funding but not as quickly as proposed.

Some colleagues in this chamber will not have attended or visited a youth club so some may have limited knowledge. Children attending youth clubs are not the same children that belong to uniformed clubs or consider joining young farmers or Rotaract.

Nancherrow Youth Project

Nancherrow Youth Project, St Just

It’s not what this amendment is about but I will use my local Youth centre to illustrate why withdrawing the funding in 3 months time could cause more than just open access youth provision to falter or disappear. The building is owned by this council and is leased to a community run management committee. They, through various grants and fundraising have developed a music facility, including a recording studio that local youngsters with an interest or talent can develop their skills; many perform in the town’s festival, Lafrowda. Many of the youngster are not academic and this helps them develop all sorts of life skills that they don’t even realise they are learning. Most will not go on to earn a living from music but they will have learnt to be part of a team, turn up on time and most importantly, gained self-esteem.

Although the music project worker is not funded by this Council, to avoid lone working, he works when Council funded youth workers run their sessions. Also, the targeted youth worker does some of her work, in conjunction with activities at the club. You can start to appreciate the complex nature of our youth provision and why partners want a little more time to adjust to the proposed funding cuts.

I will now turn to where we propose the money will come from, to balance the budget. My preference would have been to have used reserves to fund the shortfall of savings, like we are enabling discussions to continue over our Libraries. Sadly, Cath Robinson felt unable to support more pressure on our reserves. We therefore chose the roads maintenance budget, on the basis that we feel our young people are more important than one year of additional pressure to roads maintenance. If you support this amendment, we will have our fingers crossed for a mild winter (ok so far), rain in moderation and no storm force winds but if the worst happens and they all come; we have reserves and our past experience would say that in the real extremes the Government helps too! I do apologise for the additional challenge we are proposing for that department but not for choosing our young people over roads.

This will not be universally popular but I wanted to speak up for our young people. That is not to say Andrew Wallis has not done that and I know there are other areas he might see as more important. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen Children’s Services, rather than roads, protected within our budget! I think that Cornwall’s teenagers are more important and I have seen far worse road conditions in other parts of the country!

Sometimes you have to do what you feel is right and I hope others will feel able to support this modest amendment.