VOTE: Should West Sussex County Council make more youth service cuts?

YOUTH leaders in the Littlehampton area are braced for more cuts as West Sussex County Council prepares to close its consultation on a further shrinking of the service.

Wick’s Keystone Centre, the former Boys’ Club, has already had to close for most of the week as a result of the first round of cuts, which took £2m out of the youth service.

Now the county council is looking to make a further £2m reduction in spending on the service, but is asking community groups and others such as town and parish councils and churches to soften the blow by setting up their own initiatives.

The Keystone Centre, which used to be open several nights a week, is now open just one evening, and youngsters are charged £1, double the amount they used to pay.

Mike Northeast, town and Arun councillor for the area and chairman of the centre management committee, said it was almost inevitable there would be an increase in crime as a result of the building now staying shut for most of the week.

“There will be more kids around the streets with nothing to do. that could well result in more crime,” he said.

“I’m not saying they are all criminals, but some are bound to get into trouble.”

He added that when the previous round of cuts were made, there was no consultation with the centre by the county council.

“We have no idea how we will be affected this time either,” he said.

Centre secetary Jon Jolly, who is also a full-time Arun Community Church children’s and youth team leader, said: “I appreciate that it must be very difficult to shave such a huge amount off an already tight budget and the implications for the remaining staff must be significant and disheartening.

“However, as partners with the youth service and stakeholders in running youth provision locally, the lack of communication all the way through has been very frustrating.”

County council cabinet member for children and families Peter Evans said: “We need to consider new and imaginative ways to provide services.

“A number of youth activities have already been taken over by the voluntary sector and local community groups.”