Suffolk: Council-run youth clubs face closure

FOR decades they’ve been a rite of passage for generations of teenagers – but today Suffolk’s council-run youth clubs are facing the end of the road.

They are all set to be closed or handed over to voluntary groups over the next few years – with most set to shut their doors between April and September next year.

They are set to become the latest victim of the county council spending squeeze and the death-knell is expected to be sounded at next week’s county cabinet meeting.

The county is set to set up a “divestment fund” which will help local communities take over successful clubs – but only a tiny minority of eligible teenagers use the clubs.

Figures in a paper for the meeting show that the some clubs attracted an average of only five youngsters a session between April and September this year.

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County councillor with responsibility for children and young people Graham Newman said: “The fact is that even if those numbers are only half the true figures, that would mean well under two per cent of youngsters who could go to the youth clubs are actually doing so.”

A list of red, amber and green clubs has been drawn up.

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The “red” list is clubs which are likely to close between April and September next year. Some of these have poor attendance and support from their local community.

However some are relatively well attended with strong support and are the council is expecting to hand them over to other bodies to take them ove.

The “amber” list is clubs which are likely to be handed over to independent bodies in 2012.

And those on the “green” list are well attended clubs which don’t have the support of any other group to take them over at this time – and the council’s “divestment fund” will aim to help them set up support groups to take over their operation.

Recent figures showed that the number of 16 to18-year-olds in Suffolk who were not in education, employment or training was 7.4%, much higher than the regional average of 5.9% – and on a par with Hackney and Hartlepool.

Mr Newman said the changes would allow the council to target support at youngsters who really needed it.

He said: “Some of the clubs are well used and have support groups who can take them over and in some places like Felixstowe with the Level 2 centre there are already independent youth clubs that are doing very well.

“But overall we have to concentrate the council’s efforts on reaching those youngsters who really need our help,” he said.

Opposition Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Penny Otton said: “I am really, really worried that these proposals will affect young people who really need these services.

“We have to recognise there are some young people who need to use youth clubs and this could be a real blow to them.”

Labour’s young people’s spokeswoman Bryony Rudkin was also concerned: “When you do surveys of youngsters they always say they want something to do, somewhere to go and now the council is talking about taking these away from them.

“Some of the clubs might not get many people for some sessions – but they are bases for their work in the community and it would be a real tragedy if they end up having to close because of this.”

Red list:

Beccles Youth Centre

Bungay Youth Centre

Framlingham Youth Club

High Suffolk Centre (Debenham)

Kessingland Youth Club

Leiston Youth Centre

Metro Centre (Lowestoft)

Morton Road Youth Club (Lowestoft)

Reydon Youth Club

Saxmundham Youth Club

Eye Youth Club

Stradbroke Youth Club

Kesgrave Youth Centre

Stone Lodge Youth Centre (Ipswich)

Thurston Youth Work

Haverhill Hangar

Needham Market Youth Club

Amber list:

Boston Lodge Youth Club (Lowestoft)

Halesworth Apollo Youth Club

Felixstowe Youth and Community Centre

Pemberton House (Ipswich)

Flowerpot Drop-in Centre (Brandon)

Jubilee Centre (Mildenhall)

Wells Hall Old School (Gt Cornard)

Green list:

Colville House Youth Club (Lowestoft)

Foley House Youth Centre (Newmarket)

Stowmarket Community Education Centre

No 46 (Bury St Edmunds)

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