The challenges of youth – The Icelandic way/solutions

The BBC has some innovative youth solutions on its web site – see link above

I have not been one to watch the demise of local youth facilities without saying that we are headed in very much the wrong direction and that there are and will continue be negative consequences for the wider community and the young people left wandering on our streets.

The closure of Maghull’s innovative Youth Coffee Bar set up by local youngsters for local youngsters comes to mind. On the positive side though volunteers are working to set up a new youth facility which will soon operate from within Lydiate Village Centre.

But this a is not another rant about the the failed political processes in Maghull/Lydiate that have led to the demise of publicly funded youth facilities, its a call to say hey look at what the Icelandic nation is doing and could we not do something similar?

The alternative i.e. to continue to let our young people wander the streets getting into trouble and keeping our over-stretched police force busy is hardly offering them a happy, healthy and positive future now is it?

Maghull – Youth facilities – I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry

Readers of this blog site will know how I and others supported the ambitions of local youth when they created Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar within Maghull Town Hall some 20+ years ago. You will also know how distressed I am about Maghull Town Council closing down the facility in 2016.

Inside the Youth Coffee Bar after a refurb' a few years ago

Inside the Youth Coffee Bar after a refurb’ a few years ago

But having read in the Aintree & Maghull Champion a quote about youth facilities in Maghull I did not know whether to laugh or cry! – ‘developing an appropriate youth offer to engage young people in productive activities is the right thing to do’. This was said, according to the Champion, by Town Council Leader Patrick McKinley.

Now what was the Youth Coffee Bar meant to do? Yes you have guessed it, just what the quote above says! So why run it down over 3 or so years and then close it? Why not have taken it to the next stage, whilst engaging further with local youngsters and getting them to take the lead yet again?

It was the idea of local youngsters in the first place, the Town Council of the day just helped them develop it, fund it and put in place the management processes to ensure it worked. Setting up Maghull & District Youth Council was a part of this process.

It was not something imposed on youngsters by adults, it was their plan which adults aided them, only as required, to fulfill.

Now the facility is mothballed (although Maghull CAB still use it I guess as they always have done) and it may even become a Police Station if that’s the part of Maghull Town Hall the Merseyside Police are moving into.

Sorry Patrick, I hear your words but I despair, I really do.

The Champion newspaper printed an edited version of a letter which I had sent to them about this matter in its edition dated 18th January.

Maghull Police Station – Some flesh on the bones but answers needed about whether there’s a connection with Youth Coffee Bar

Following the recent news that Maghull Police Station is likely to move into Maghull Town Hall (and thereby Merseyside Police become a tenant of Maghull Town Council) I thought I would try to get to the bottom of what the new look Community Police Stations are expected to look like when they open. I say they as this model of Community Police Stations is to be rolled out across Merseyside I understand.

Who best to go to for the info’ than the Police themselves and this is what they have provided to me:-




The intention behind a Community Police Station is accessibility. “Community Police Stations will be at the heart of communities and each community served by a station will have access to officers on the beat.” This is planned to be achieved by:

· Having an identifiable police station consisting of an office, preferably within a shared location with partners, where officers can access Force systems and undertake any necessary paperwork, parade on and have their lockers, airwave and CS cabinets installed if required, with some parking facilities and bicycle storage, with out of hours access.

· Holding regular, advertised drop in surgeries for the public at the station.

· Allowing members of the public to book appointments with officers/PCSOs at the station.

· Having a private interview room available for private one to one meetings.

· Holding larger public meetings.

· Having TV screens visible externally but located within the building with rolling messages advertising surgery times and also any information that we might want to convey to the public.

. Having a yellow telephone external to the building that allows members of the public to contact the Force directly

In terms of timescales – “We will begin detailed planning and design work around the end of March/ April next year. The work will take a few months to complete, depending on any complications we might come across”.


So now we know a little bit more but Maghull Town Hall is quite small compared to many traditional town halls so where will the Police accommodation be within it?

Maghull Town Hall

I still have fears that the innovative Youth Coffee Bar which the Town Council closed not so long ago could well be a part of the accommodation to be leased to Merseyside Police but it would be nice to hear from the Council that my fears are groundless. However, if the Youth Coffee Bar was closed simply to accommodate the Police I and many others who support youth facilities and in particular this previously highly successful one will be even more unhappy than were were to receive news that it was closing in the first place.

Can we have answers please Town Council? – Watch this space

Youth facilities – are fast disappearing but not all because of austerity

The BBC has the story on its web site – See link above

This is a subject I have blogged about many times before especially in relation to youth facilities in Maghull.

I don’t think anyone reading the article on the BBC web site, which is based on a report by trade union Unison, will be surprised by the findings. However, as I have pointed out before the demise of youth facilities in Maghull has been as much about shifting political priorities than it has been about cuts caused by government austerity measures.

Yes the loss of Maghull’s Stafford Moreton Youth Centre, which was owned and run by Sefton Borough Council, can reasonably be put down to austerity cuts by Sefton Council. BUT it has to be said that Sefton Labour led young people on a march around the Town to oppose youth facility closures before the very same political party then voted to close the vast majority of the Borough’s youth facilities! I kid you not.

Maghull did have a second major youth facility though called Maghull Youth Coffee Bar which was within Maghull Town Hall and run by Maghull Town Council. It had been set up by local youngsters and had become highly popular and successful as it was not your usual type of local authority youth centre. It was run by young people for young people with minimal adult input and had been backed by Maghull Town Council’s Lib Dem administration. However, when Labour won control of the Town Council in 2011 it quickly became apparent that they had no love for this youth facility. Labour finally killed it of a few months ago but that was a policy decision not an austerity measure; indeed they openly said they were to going to provide tennis coaching as an alternative.

Readers will also know that I had little love for Sefton Youth Service because of my interactions with it. I my view it was rigid and old fashioned. It was very clear that it was extremely uncomfortable working with the Youth Coffee Bar where young people held the power and control. It took the innovation of individual youth workers to see the potential of what the young people were developing and they got involved despite the Youth Service with all it’s policies and and rigid attitudes. Indeed, local councillors had to go into bat for the youngsters on a number of occasions when the Youth Service was trying to shift how the Coffee Bar was run in ways the young people and Town Council did not want. But I have told that story often enough before.

My point is that here in Sefton Borough and in Maghull in particular I saw two very different ways of running modern youth facilities and I am in no doubt that the one invented by the young people in the 1990’s was by far the better one. Traditional youth centres with a table tennis facility in old wooden buildings were dying off because youngsters found them uninteresting.

Sadly innovation, in the form of our local Youth Coffee Bar, was killed off in Maghull by the rigid hand of municipal socialism which did not want what it could not control.

As a trade unionist I thank Unison for bringing out how at risk our few remaining youth facilities are because of the lack of public sector funding.

My thanks also to Roy Connell for spotting the story on the BBC web site.

Maghull – So what’s happened to the Town’s innovative Youth Coffee Bar this time?

Maghull’s innovative Youth Coffee Bar in the Town Hall has now been closed again and for quite some weeks; since August I understand. What’s going on?

Inside the Youth Coffee Bar after a refurb' a few years ago

Inside the Youth Coffee Bar after a refurb’ a few years ago

I have blogged before about Maghull Youth Coffee Bar as it was an important step forward in youth provision when it was launched all those years ago. It’s aim was to put young people in control of their own facility and for that facility to be at the heart of the Town – in the Town Hall.

My previous posts are accessible below:-

Yes, some folks opposed it when it was launched saying things like we don’t want unruly youngsters in the Town Hall, put them somewhere where they can make their noise well away from us etc. etc. But the then Lib Dem run Town Council was determined to take the project forward because it was right and because it had been devised and progressed by young people themselves. It was meant to challenge the view that young people should be neither seen or heard by older generations.

Nickie Smith was President of Maghull & District Youth Council and was one of the original campaigners for the Youth Coffee Bar who subsequently became a Maghull Town Councillor

Nickie Smith was President of Maghull & District Youth Council and was one of the original campaigners for the Youth Coffee Bar who subsequently became a Maghull Town Councillor

It worked very well for many years and was often the most successful youth facility in the whole of Sefton Borough, in terms of the throughput of youngsters, despite Sefton’s Youth Service being very sniffy about it. They were sniffy as they were only asked to/meant to support it, not run it and this went against the controlling attitudes of the Youth Service in my view. Having said that some of the individual youth workers certainly did buy into the project even if Sefton Council did not.

The Coffee Bar room could not be booked by an adult group without young people being OK with that; it was meant to empower young people and help them grow into citizens they and we could be proud of.

When Labour took control of the Town Council in 2011 you could see their disbelief about how the facility was run. After all Labour are all about control not giving power away. There have been a number run-ins with Labour since then and they have imposed closures before – my previous postings accessible via the link above refer. However, what is the Labour-run Town Council up to now? Is it that hard to put young people first without them having to be controlled by Labour?

So very, very sad.

Sefton Council speeches – Sometimes they are completely off the subject.

I have previously commented on the happenings at Sefton Council on Thursday 22nd January when the Council’s Local Plan was being debated.

One thing I have not mentioned though so far is the rather off the subject contribution of one member of the Council. You see this Labour councillor had to be told to stick to the matter being debated, by the Mayor, rather than carry on with his vision of how socialist revolution was benefiting Maghull Town Council and seemingly Maghull as a whole.

He made a number of claims, before he was advised to stick to the Local Plan by the Mayor, including the old chestnut of it supposedly cost £500,000 to repair Maghull Town Hall roof. It actually cost less than half of that i.e. £206,816.79 – I know because I asked the Town Clerk for the exact figure due to Labour’s fantasy £500,000 figure oft being quoted by them. Check if you don’t believe me.

He also made some odd reference to Maghull Town Hall being run like some kind of private club prior to Labour taking control of the Council in 2011.

Goodness knows what he was on about; I have been on Maghull Council for nearly 30 years and it has never been any such thing at all, indeed I have always thought of it as being more a community centre than a town hall. I am told that it was called ‘Town Hall’ because Maghull Community Association was already in existence and there was a feeling that calling it ‘community centre’ may lead to confusion.

The only ‘club’ in the Town Hall, if you want to refer to it as such is Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar and it is certainly not one of Labour’s favourite things as they have blocked the funding of the Youth Council that runs it and closed it a couple of times without consulting the young people who are meant to learning life skills by managing the the facility themselves. I have blogged about this before, the last time being associated with Nickie Smith stepping down as its main adult support due, in part, to the disinterest of guess who, oh yes, Labour-run Maghull Town Council!

So next time a Labour member gives a ‘come the socialist revolution’ speech maybe they can remember the right figure for the cost of the Town Hall roof and how their party was hardly a friend of Maghull Youth Coffee Bar Club.

Who was it that said it?