Jobs of scores of Wiltshire youth workers under threat, says union
Scores of youth workers could face redundancy and youth clubs could close under Wiltshire Council plans to save £500,000 from its budget.
Unions have been called to redundancy consultation meetings to be held in Chippenham, Trowbridge and Salisbury on Friday.
Officers for union Unite say they have seen documents that outline four proposals for change to youth workers at the meetings. There will then be a consultation period which will end on April 22 when the Wiltshire Council cabinet will make a decision.
In the worst case scenario the union says all 144 members of staff would be made redundant and 24 youth centres would close.
Unite regional officer Alan Tomala said: “We face the real possibility that by the end of August we will have no youth workers, empty youth centres boarded up and young people hanging around outside them with nothing to do.
“As a union we are concerned about redundancy for our members but we also want to warn the public about these plans before it is too late.”
The union says it is worried that, despite the consultation with staff, there appear to be no plans to hold public meetings.
Mr Tomala said: “The council knows these will be unpopular cuts, so it is trying to avoid difficult questions at public meetings. The county’s young people will suffer, if councillors are allowed to sneak these plans through.”
The four options understood to be on the table are retain the youth work team with a significantly reduced budget; support the establishment of a staff mutual; outsource youth work and a community led model.
Unite says the community led model would involve far more volunteers having to come forward and there is no guarantee it will work and could lead to clubs closing.
Mr Tomala said: “The council would prefer the community led model option which will see professionally qualified youth workers removed and replaced by a small grants budget in each area board across Wiltshire.”
The community option is similar to one taken on sports centres under the old Wiltshire County Council which led to a massive public outcry.
A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: "A report, which considered current open access youth services and activities, was reviewed by council leaders on Tuesday (21 January).
"The report included options for ensuring sustainable provision which reflects the modern lives and needs of young people while encouraging more of them to access activities within their local communities.
"Currently, a small percentage of Wiltshire's young people access council youth services, while many are actively engaged in community, voluntary and commercially-provided activities.
"We must focus on what young people in local communities need and want in the future, while retaining the support and provision for those who need it most.
"Council leaders agreed there will be a public consultation on all the options and these will be discussed with communities - particularly young people - from the beginning of February."
The options for future delivery will be discussed with council youth service staff ahead of the consultation process.
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