Essex youth services 'face further cuts'

Youth services in Essex are under threat as the county council looks for further cuts of £215m.

The cabinet member responsible for education has written to staff about plans to begin moving away from the direct delivery of youth services.

Ray Gooding wants to outsource the service by commissioning outside specialist providers and involving more voluntary community groups.

Critics said the policy would see the loss of a "fantastic resource".

The county council hopes to reduce the budget for youth clubs and other out-of-school activities by a further £3m, after the service's budget was cut from £12m to £5m in 2010.

'Unprecedented times'

Mike Hibbs, chairman of the Saffron Walden Outreach Project, said "The county council had a fantastic resource. There were premises, there were trained and committed youth workers. That has already been lost.

"I don't know if they can cut it much more, because there's not a lot left to cut."

Essex Youth Service, which employs about 170 people and uses 100 volunteers, provides youth clubs across the county that are used by 5,000 young people.

Alternative education services, support for young carers and the Essex Dance Theatre also face an uncertain future.

Michaella Philpot, a former member of the Young Essex Assembly who has used a number of the county's youth services, said: "They're extremely valuable and give young people opportunities they don't get anywhere else."

A consultation period will begin on Tuesday but the council insisted no decisions have yet been taken.

Mr Gooding said the council was in "unprecedented times in terms of the financial savings we need to make within the county".

He said: "We are tasked with finding another £215m in savings over the next couple of years and clearly there are things we have to look at.

"Unfortunately this is one of those things which is under extreme pressure."

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