The challenges of youth – The Icelandic way/solutions

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05mw7rd

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 – Police in, youth and CAB out in Town Hall shake up

Work has now started on remodeling the former youth facility in Maghull Town Hall to turn it into a Police Station and Maghull Town Council seems to think this is worth celebrating. But is it? My letter to the Champion newspaper puts the matter in context:-

Dear Sir,

Is there really much to celebrate because part of Maghull Town Hall is to become a Police Station soon?

In my view what we have lost far outweighs what we are going to gain. The accommodation that the Police are moving into was specifically remodeled into a youth facility from its original use as a sports changing room not so many years ago. What’s more that accommodation was shared with the Citizens Advice (CAB). So whilst gaining a Police Station within the Town Hall we have lost the last publicly funded youth facility in the area and the CAB.

What’s to celebrate, the match has sadly been lost 2-1.

Yours sincerely

Tony Robertson

Poster on Maghull Town Hall noticeboard recently

Having campaigned to bring a CAB facility to Maghull and backed the establishment of the innovative Youth Coffee Bar I am rather saddened by this turn of events, indeed it angers me.

These are the plans (above) that ensure that the youth facility can never be reopened. Surely using this space for a Police Station to serve the Sefton East Parishes part of the Borough (Lydiate, Maghull, Melling and Aintree Village) is a wrong-headed priority. Of course the area needs a Police Station but we also need a youth facility and a CAB.

There are plenty of vacant shop/retail units locally so why take the space that had been specifically converted as youth facility and occupied for that use until recently – it could have and should have been revived.

And to put the tin lid on it we are told that there are concerns about the rise in anti-social behaviour as though having a active attractive youth offering would not be part of the solution to that problem!

Click on the photos and the plan to enlarge them

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.

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.