Labour controlled Bridgwater Town Council has intervened to rescue the Rollercoaster youth centre on the town’s Sydenham estate from closure in the face of savage Tory County Council cuts .The vote is a victory for Labour town and district councillor Ian Tucker who has campaigned tirelessly to save the centre for the past 2 years, initially winning a temporary reprieve for the Rollercoaster when it was given an extension to its service from 2012 until this year.
As part of their devastating programme of cutbacks,Somerset County Council are pulling out of youth provision altogether from March 31, leaving a void which is of concern to the young people involved, their families who make up the community and the Police . Cllr Tucker, along with Labour county councillors Dave Loveridge and Leigh Redman , made a point of working with the young people who he had helped set up into a campaigning ‘stakeholders group’ along with the youth workers and it was through his persistence that the solution was brought to the in tray of the Town Council.
At this weeks meeting, Bridgwater town councillors voted to accept £40k of ‘transition funding’ from Somerset County Council to help ensure youth facilities are maintained.
Cllr Ian Tucker (Labour,Dunwear) , introduced the issue at the meeting, saying “Somerset County Council will withdraw from youth funding completely on the 31st March and that would leave a hole in provision in Sydenham. Over 150 young people use the Rollercoaster and if it were to close completely there could be dramatic repercussions on the estate with some young people feeling let down. The Police are very concerned that anti social behaviour may increase and that the dream scheme which they operate with the Rollercoaster may be put in jeopardy. I am pleading that the Town Council accept the £40K from SCC and look for a suitable provider along with the young people’s help”
“Need to ensure Rollercoaster survives”
“We need to ensure the Rollercoaster survives and we’ve set up a stakeholder group of young people from the centre. The kids want their say and to take part in developing the club, much like the skatepark. If the centre were to close there would be 150 kids on the Sydenham estate without a youth club and the police are concerned. Police are supporting this through a Dreamscheme with the club.”
The council is now assessing which groups will be able to provide the service at the Rollercoaster.Town Clerk Alan Hurford said: “The council already contributes through funding for Victoria Park centre and Recreation at Hamp.One possible long term provider for services at the Rollercoaster would be from the Sydenham Community Centre. That would be open for them to tender but also for others like Victoria centre. We need to set up a specification of how we want youth provision to be run in the Sydenham area and that could involve the young people.”
The Town Clerk estimated running costs at the Rollercoaster would be £20k a year, so the £40k could allow it to run for another two years adding “After that the town council would need to consider its budget, or get funding from elsewhere. But this money will allow for us to keep it going while that is figured out. This doesn’t have to replicate current provision.”
“Young people keen to be involved”
He further made the point that four organisations have already been approached. “YMCA, Rural Youth, Victoria and Sydenham Community Centres have all expressed varying degrees of interest. Talks have been going on for some time with Cllr Tucker and some of these organisations and as he has said the young people are keen to be involved. The money is there and this is an opportunity to take over funding of youth in much the same way is already being done by the Town Council in Victoria.”
Both Cllr Graham Granter and Cllr Alex Glassford (Fairfax ward) spoke in support of the proposal that the Town Council should take youth provision on .Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater’s Parliamentary candidate and also a Town and District councillor for the Victoria ward) added “It would be stupid to reject this after fighting SCC for so long to retain youth provision.”
Bridgwater Town Council is the only Labour controlled authority in Somerset with 14 Labour Councillors and 2 Conservatives.