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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37046967

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.