Wiltshire Council has found £250,000 to give to the region’s youth services which might save jobs and some youth clubs.
As part of the budget, which was agreed today at a meeting held at County Hall in Trowbridge, £500,000 was due to be cut from the council’s youth services funds. This would have seen all the county’s youth clubs axed and 140 job losses.
Wiltshire Councillor Jon Hubbard, Liberal Democrats leader, tabled a compromise that will see the council save £100,000 by no longer printing paperwork for councillors, an efficiency review of youth club premises aimed at saving £125,000 and £25,000 from the councillors’ development fund being invested.
“Youth services is something that I and members of my group are very passionate about and I’m sorry I couldn’t find the full half a million,” Coun Hubbard said.
“There are some youth services buildings that are not fit for purpose and it is ridiculous to spend money on them when there are viable alternatives. This amendment is about people not premises. Taking money from councillors making our lives a little less convenient to help others.”
How the £250,000 will be spent isn’t likely to be known until April as a public consultation about the future of Wiltshire’s youth services is currently ongoing.
Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott, who is also leader of Wiltshire’s Conservatives, welcomed Coun Hubbard’s amendment to the budget.
She said: “I would like to thank Jon for everything he has said. It's great that we can work together as a political organisation. This amendment will make whatever decision comes from youth services consultation that bit easier."
The four options being considered as part of the youth services consultation include the council retaining its current in-house service but at a reduced cost; outsourcing the service; encouraging and supporting staff to form a Public Service Mutual; or to developing a community led approach.
During today’s full council meeting, Chris Baker, 19, from Salisbury, presented a petition signed by 2,500 people calling for there to be no cuts to youth services.
Chris, a volunteer Grosvenor House youth centre, in Salisbury, said: “The young people of Wiltshire are shocked and surprised by the council’s proposals. I hope this petition will have an influence.”
Wiltshire Council’s 2014/15 budget will reduce by £25m this year. It was approved in a recorded vote among councillors which saw 74 vote for it, five against and seven abstentions.
Funding for bus services the council deem to be inefficient and 5p per mile funding for the region’s Link bus services have been withdrawn as part of the budget cuts.
Wiltshire Council has frozen its element of the council tax for the fourth year in a row.
Coun Scott said: “This has been a challenging budget to set but I’m pleased we have yet again been able to freeze council tax.
“The ongoing reduction in central government funding combined with increased demand has meant that once again we have had to take an innovative approach to ensure that we can continue to provide vital front line services for the people of Wiltshire.
“We will continue to do whatever we can to lessen the impact on these vital services and to protect those who are most vulnerable in our communities.”