Opposition to ‘punitive’ youth service cuts

A protest against cuts to youth services in Brighton and Hove on Saturday
A protest against cuts to youth services in Brighton and Hove on Saturday

Cuts to youth services in Brighton and Hove have been labelled ‘short-sighted’ by campaigners.

They presented a petition with more than 2,000 signatures opposing reductions totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds from Brighton and Hove City Council’s annual youth services budget at a meeting last Thursday.

Both Conservative and Green councillors challenged the Labour administration over the level of information that had been provided on both the impact of the proposed cuts and how they had been arrived at.

One of the campaigners, Raven Lee, 20, argued that the cuts were ‘short-sighted economically as well as socially’ and would ‘put young people in harm’s way and take away their support systems’.

She said: “We appreciate that central government have made huge cuts to the local budget. However, we would argue that vulnerable young people should not be put at risk when council executives are on six-figure salaries.

“Young people benefit from services in so many ways. They get support from youth workers, they get free meals, learn skills, have a safe space to go, are offered opportunities and have a place to socialise.”

After the petition was presented Dan Chapman (Lab, Queen’s Park), chair of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, said: “It’s important to reassure people the council will still provide and support a broad range of services for young people.”

He explained that a consultation was currently underway on the proposals and due to efficiency savings they had already put £100,000 back into the youth services budget

Andrew Wealls (Con, Central Hove), deputy leader of the Tory group, felt they needed a report which ‘looks at the options properly’, adding: “What we have not had information on is the array of choices and how those choices were made.”

Vanessa Brown (Con, Hove Park) added: “By imposing such punitive cuts to the youth service we risk creating more costs in the longer term as so much of this work is effectively early intervention and prevention.”

A Conservative amendment, asking for an officers’ report detailing service descriptions and client reach that could be provided at a range of funding levels, descriptions of cuts considered as alternatives, and an impact assessment of the funding reduction in youth services, was agreed unanimously.

But a Green amendment, arguing for a special Children, Young People & Skills Committee meeting to be convened to consider the petition, was defeated.

Alex Phillips (Green, Regency), deputy convener of the Green group, said it was ‘absolutely unacceptable that these young people are being treated in this way’ adding: “The whole thing is an absolute joke and these young people should not be at the mercy of it.”

Phelim Mac Cafferty (Green, Brunswick & Adelaide), convener of the Green group, described the Labour administration’s cuts to youth services as ‘short-sighted’ and ‘harmful’.

But Tom Bewick (Lab, Westbourne), who stepped down as chair of the Children, Youth People and Skills Committee in early January, criticised both Tory and Green speakers.

He said: “We have a Tory party that’s in denial about the cuts that its Government is visiting on our residents, and we have a Green party that prefers the politics of opposition sowing division and fear.”