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:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/11/03/maghull-youth-council-nickie-smith-a-big-thank-you-and-a-nagging-sadness/

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 Town Council Budget meeting 22nd January – We don’t need a Neighbourhood Plan but we do need Maghull in Bloom and youth facilities.

rsz_maghull_town_council_logo

With reserves of £400,000 this Labour-run Council had room to pledge a £5,000 support grant to Maghull’s ‘In Bloom’ volunteers and to back a small financial package to secure the Town’s unique Youth Coffee Bar but it stubbornly refused to do either.

We Lib Dems have always seen youth facilities as being vital that’s why we set up Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall when we ran the Council. Labour’s shutting of the facility for a number of weeks last December was appalling but they are simply not investing in our young people. Labour has stopped the yearly grant to Maghull & District Youth Council and chopped out the Town Council’s Youth Projects fund. To counter this we Lib Dem proposed that £5,000 was put aside to help run the Youth Coffee Bar when volunteers are unavailable to run it.

On the environmental front Maghull folk are delighted with the floral displays in the Town’s shopping centre, at Deyes Lane shops and at Treeview Court. But the volunteers, who put on the prize winning displays in partnership with the local business community and the Town Council, can’t produce the displays from nothing so Maghull Council has long been a significant financial supporter of the ‘In Bloom’ Volunteers. But, under Labour the Council’s support has been slipping with no guarantee to the volunteers over the certainty of the Council’s support in the future. The Lib Dem view is that this is simply not on so we proposed that the Council return to supporting Maghull in Bloom to the tune of £5,000 per year. Labour sadly voted the grant down.

However, Labour’s major objective is an odd thing – a Neighbourhood Plan that it is planning to spend £10,000 on in the coming year and probably a significant amount more in future as these plans can cost £70,000+! Why they want to do one no one knows because they will not say despite being asked to do so by the Lib Dems.

A Neighbourhood Plan is a smaller version of a Local Plan, of which Sefton Council is presently putting one together for the whole Borough. Of course, Sefton’s Local Plan is hugely controversial because Labour-run Sefton wants to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land, especially around Maghull!

But Maghull Town Council is Labour run too so why can’t they simply add whatever the matters are that are buzzing around in their bonnets straight into the Sefton Local Plan? They could do that for free instead of spending goodness knows how much Council tax payers money doing a separate Neighbourhood Plan for Maghull.

Our concern is that Labour may have an agenda to build even more houses in Maghull because a Neighbourhood Plan is not allowed to include anything that disagrees with the Borough’s Local Plan; so they could build more houses via a Neighbourhood Plan but they could not build less. I think it is about time Labour came clean on their secret Neighbourhood Plan objectives for Maghull because Labour Maghull Town Councillor and Sefton Leader Cllr. Peter Dowd has already signed up publicly to Ed Miliband’s doubling of the present house building targets.

Youth facilities (in crisis?) in the East Parishes part of Sefton

Poster from Lydiate Village Centre

Poster from Lydiate Village Centre

There is still great uncertainty over how youth facilities will be delivered in the future and inside sources tell me that the reason agreements can’t be struck is associated with Sefton Council continually moving the goal posts causing great frustration all round!

I have heard the same story from Labour, Lib Dem and independent sources and such has been the frustration that Sefton’s most senior youth worker had to be called in.

The latest is that youth funding is still in place for a few months whilst deals are struck as to how they will be delivered in the future. Some are optimistic others are quite pessimistic about the outcome.

Those who have been around Sefton’s Youth Service for some time seem unsurprised by the turn of events but whatever the case Maghull, Lydiate, Melling and Aintree Village youth facilities hang in the balance whilst negotiations continue. Red tape, rules, regulations, policies seem to be at the heart of the negotiations.

No one wants to see Maghull's Youth Coffee Bar boarded up like the Town's Stafford Moreton Youth Club is.

No one wants to see Maghull’s Youth Coffee Bar boarded up like the Town’s Stafford Moreton Youth Club is.

It was because of this carry on that we Lib Dems advised Labour run Maghull TC to put some money aside, via the Council’s 2013/14 budget, to ensure that the unique Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall does not get the chop. Despite it being a huge success and nationally acclaimed Sefton Youth Service has never been keen on it because they could not control it. Run by young people for young people but with Youth Worker support it was always the project Sefton Youth Service wanted to drop and many battles have been had with them. Labour would not listen of course so we can only now hope that it survives rather than being able to guarantee its survival.

Maghull’s famous Youth Coffee Bar faces funding threat

The unique Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall that was set up by Maghull and District Youth Council and the then Lib Dem run Town Council is facing an uncertain future as Labour run Sefton Council has turned down a bid for its continuing funding. This despite the Borough Council saying is has £40,000 available to spend on such projects across the East Parishes in the next financial year.

Lib Dem campaigners are worried that if things are not sorted out soon this valuable youth facility that has won nationwide plaudits, could face the chop. Says Lib Dem Cllr. Andrew Blackburn “We have to do all we can to get the funding in place and if Labour run Sefton will not fund it then Maghull Town Council should put its hand in its rather deep pockets; we can’t let it simply drift away.”