|Audience Statement or Fact?|
The meeting was attended by about thirty people drawn from the public, police, youth service workers, councillors, and of course young people themselves. Peter Hatcher was the only person representing the County Council. It seems it wasn't the first time Lead Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Families Councillor Heather Timms was absent. Apologies were made and someone from the County was expected to appear - they didn't.
Peter Hatcher presented the reasons behind Facing the Challenge, Transforming Youth Services in Warwickshire without any slides or screen to watch. Just him at the front completely on his own. For those of you who do not know, an officer like Peter Hatcher (PH) did not make the decisions to close Youth Centres and cut back the service. It was made by elected members in the cabinet.
Questions came from the audience. Why has this been rushed with consultation closure on 16 May? To coincide with the new academic year. There were many concerns over finance, funding, charities, CRB checks and business links which will effect the progress of youth work. PH nodded, agreed and said what he could which was citing policy and guidance - only speculation on the future. What happens when the grant funding dries up? Complicated questions followed on asset transfer clauses, conversion to freehold, periods of notice. Most of which I do not even pretend to understand.
The mood in the room was tense but not quite hostile. Someone said it felt like all the decisions had been made and the premises will cease. Another commented it was an imposition not a consultation. And another, it sounds like choices and options - alternative management or sell. PH made a comment about County trying to be open, transparent and honest. No one in the room was buying into that.
Apparently, Councillor Timms was at another meeting in Rugby that night (as I have just learned). Holding two roles in different councils cannot be sensible when such serious cuts are planned - can it?