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Holt youth club under threat as cuts start to bite

THE future of Holt Youth Club is under threat as Wiltshire Council cuts start to bite.

That’s the view of Alan Fox, chairman of Broughton Gifford and Holt Youthwork Project which runs the club.

In an open letter to the council, he says the cutbacks to youth services have been done in a ‘clandestine way’ and the consultation has been a ‘complete sham’.

He wrote, “At present, unless you have anything else to offer constructively, we can see no alternative but to close the youth club.”

The highly critical letter says, “We are most concerned at the manner in which the young people in our county are being marginalised.

“Over several months we have followed the path of the proposed cuts to the Youth Service after our attention was drawn to your news release (Ref PR 5823 and dated 03 February 2014 and entitled ‘Help ensure activities in your area meet the needs of young people’) At each point we have asked what the implications of these proposed cuts will be. We had no substantive answer to the question.

“Whilst you claim that you have consulted widely without spelling out the implications of your proposed cuts it is impossible to constructively comment. We conclude that the consultation process has been a complete sham.

“At the last trustees’ meeting of the Broughton Gifford and Holt Youthwork Project the implications of your decision made on 15th May were explained, and we noted that:- • You are closing youth centres and making all your youth workers redundant; • The provision from the existing youth workers will cease at the end of July; • Following which there will be 2 weeks of “celebratory events” though it is hard to imagine what there is to celebrate.

“Instead, apparently, you envisage that local communities will take up the baton.

“We understand that from time to time you have held up Holt Youth Club as an example of good practice, and maybe we are the sort of local community you envisage flourishing in this new regime.

“The difficulty we face is that our youth club provides an outlet for many vulnerable and needy young people and there is a need for professional well trained youth workers to lead it.

“Where do you think that we are going to find these for a two or three hour session each week after you have made them redundant?

“Not only that, it is clear that we have been dependent on the council funding.

“The derisory sum of £9,000 now offered for the whole of our Bradford-on-Avon Area Board effectively means no youth provision. Certainly this is the implication for us!

“Has the council considered the long term implications of this for the youth work in Wiltshire, especially after you have to deal with the eventual alienation of young people and the adults affected?

“We understand that the session, which you had arranged for last Saturday to explain the implications of these cuts to the young people, was cancelled because you were concerned about the possible response from them!

“We wonder whether you will end up saving money from the public purse.

“Frankly we are not surprised: the clandestine way that you have gone about making these cuts is not helpful to your youth service or to those volunteers like ourselves who have taken the trouble to ensure youth provision for our village on a basis of shared responsibility and trust.

“Your silence makes us feel disenfranchised. It leaves us with little time to plan for the future.

“At present, unless you have anything else to offer constructively, we can see no alternative but to close the youth club.

“Time is of the essence. We would welcome your meaningful response by the 11th July 2014.”