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 – Stafford Moreton Youth Centre demolished

My previous posting about the the demolition of this and the old Maghull Library refers – see link below:-

Maghull's former Stafford Moreton Youth  Centre boarded up.

Maghull’s former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre boarded up.

The Youth Centre was a 1960’s building named after a prominent local councillor called Henry Stafford Moreton, indeed the adjacent Stafford Moreton Way is also named after him of course.

I did not know him as my time in local politics (starting in 1980) coincided roughly with him retiring from it. I do know his nephew Chris Bayliss though and Chris’s Uncle Frank Bayliss was also a local councillor during my early years on the council.

Many Maghull folk will have memories of attending the Youth Centre although I am not one of them. For some reason, despite the fact I came to live in Maghull in 1968 at the age of 10, I never set foot in the place as a youngster although I don’t know why.

I became aware of it though in my years as a Maghull councillor with various of my councillor friends being members of the Management Committee. Phil Watterson and Andrew Blackburn, Merrick Stott, and Cliff Mainey come to mind but I am sure there were others.

The Youth Centre bobbed along although the opening of the Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall some 20 years ago, which became very popular, must have had an effect on the numbers of youngsters attending it. I also recall that Stafford Moreton YC had a local group for youngsters with disabilities meeting there each week for many years.

Then the recession hit us and Stafford Moreton was slated for closure, this must have been late 2010 or early 2011. Indeed, you may recall that Labour led a march around the Maghull to try to stop the closure from happening, which is quite ironic based on what actually happened later on.

My view was that the Youth Coffee Bar, a specifically developed (by young people) modern youth facility in Maghull Town Hall, could have been used more often and Stafford Moreton’s groups moved there but the powers that be seemed more concerned with just closing things down.

Youth facilities across Sefton Borough continued to decline with the Youth Coffee Bar being a beacon of hope in Maghull because the Town Council funded it rather than Sefton Borough Council.

Of course Labour then took control of Sefton Council and what did they subsequently do? They closed down Stafford Moreton Youth Club which they had marched young people around the streets of Maghull to stop the closure of!

And it has stood there rather forlornly for a number of years awaiting someone to buy the land. Readers who are close to local issues will recall that at the very time Labour-run Sefton Council was meeting to sell the Youth Centre and Old Library land to the highest bidder (which turned out to be Netto) Maghull’s Labour Party commenced a sham consultation exercise about the future of the site in community use via the Champion newspaper! Yes, you could not make it up but it happened. Of course the consultation was was never heard of again as it was just a Labour publicity stunt.

Stafford Moreton Youth Centre gone - June 2016

Stafford Moreton Youth Centre gone – June 2016

So here it is being demolished for a supermarket to take its place. What’s even more sad is that Labour has recently also shut the doors on the Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall for the last time. Now which political party marched youngsters around Maghull to fight for local youth facilities? Oh yes, that’s right, the one that closed them all down!

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.

Maghull – Youth Council – Nickie Smith – A big thank you and a nagging sadness

Nickie Smith writes – I am afraid I think the time is now right for me to withdraw from leading the [Maghull & District] Youth Council and the [Youth] Coffee Bar. I have been involved with the Youth Council for the last 25 years since I was 11 and with the Youth Coffee Bar since the start! In fact I was one of the members who approached the council with the suggestion of the Coffee Bar. Recent years have been very trying fighting for the Coffee Bar and the support that was once there seems very lacking these days. Now with my job and family commitments there are just not enough hours in the day and if I am honest I haven’t got the energy any more.

Nickie Smith

Nickie Smith

I hope the Town Council will continue to support the young people as the Coffee Bar and Youth Council have helped many people including myself develop and guided many vulnerable young people over the years. It seems now a days that all the good things young people do or need help with are very often forgotten or overshadowed by the minority of negative instances with young people.

I am sad to finish volunteering but I think now is the right time.

Tony Robertson writes It made me very sad to read this especially as it is from the very person who has been the guiding light for Maghull & District Youth Council and Maghull Town Hall’s unique Youth Coffee Bar from day one.

Sadly, and I think my Labour opponents will agree with me here, the Youth Coffee Bar and Youth Council have hardly been high on their priorities list since they took control of Maghull Town Council in 2011.

I have always seen young people as as a priority in my time as a councillor and that’s why I backed the setting up of the Youth Council and Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull many years ago. When we Lib Dems lost control of the Town Council it really did not enter my head that Labour would not see youth as a priority too. But you live and learn.

Nickie has done a splendid job, indeed she became a local councillor herself for number of years as a direct consequence of her work with local youngsters. She was helped along the way by many people both young and old but two people really do require a mention – Cllr. Andrew Blackburn and former now retired youth worker Nova Rimmer. Both of them stood by Nickie in the tough times and when young people came under the spotlight from those who did not support them as they did.

It can be tough working with youngsters because, by their very nature, they are trainee adults who make mistakes and sometimes act inappropriately; but we have all been there! The ethos of the Youth Coffee Bar when it was set up was that young people controlled it, looked after its finances and learned some life skills along the way. Adults were there to help when required but not to be controlling or dominant in any way.

My priority has been to put young people first and that meant the Youth Coffee Bar always being available for young people to use and it only being used by adults when young people were not using it. This was an important principle to me and indeed it used to be for Maghull Town Council. But, as I say, the priorities of one political party are not those of another and it has been obvious to me that young people are simply not near the top of Labour’s list of priorities. So much so that the Youth Coffee Bar will be closed between the 5th and 18th of November this year whilst it is used for another purpose. And yes, you have guessed it, the young people were told rather than consulted!

I have penned this tribute to Nickie and my moan about youngsters no longer being a priority more in sadness than in anger.

My previous posts on this subject are at:-

Sefton Youth Service – Making decisions in partnership with others is not their strong point

I have commented before about the rather odd state of affairs in allocating Council money for youth services in the East Parishes part of Sefton.

Amazingly a 2013/14 budget of £40,000 for which bids originally had to be in by the end of October 2012 has yet to be allocated with the agreement of all the bidding groups. We are talking 8 moving into 9 months down the track!

The money is for the running of youth facilities in Lydiate, Melling, Maghull and Aintree Village and includes the budget to run Maghull Town Hall’s innovative and highly successful Youth Coffee Bar.

For reasons I genuinely can’t understand there is meeting after meeting between interested youth facility providers from the voluntary and Parish Council sectors with Sefton’s Youth Service but the allocation of the money simply does not happen and the process continues to go around in circles. Having spoken with some people involved in the circus they are clearly at the end of their tethers, what’s more at the latest meeting no one from Sefton’s Youth Service was even there!

My guess is that most of the volunteers and Parish Councils have clear objectives for their youth facilities but Sefton Council is not seemingly keen to embrace their plans. Sadly, such a line would be consistent with Sefton’s approach to Maghull’s Youth Coffee Bar which was set up by local young people with the help of the then Lib Dem run Maghull Town Council and a great local Youth Worker, who really did embrace innovation, called Nova Rimmer many years ago. Young people running things themselves and making a success of it – we can’t be having any of that – seems to be the order of the day.

Nova is well retired now but every now and again I run across her in Southport as I did only a couple of weeks ago. She asked me how Maghull’s Youth Coffee Bar was doing and I think the look on my face was all she had to see to realise that the battles with Sefton Council’s Youth Service go on as they have done for 20+ years.