People power sparks debate

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PEOPLE power has forced a council debate on controversial plans to axe scores of the county’s youth clubs.

Derbyshire County Council will hold the debate in a highly unusual move triggered after more than 8,300 protesters signed the Save our Youth Service petition.

The joint online and paper-based petition opposes the authority’s radical proposals to shut 29 youth clubs in the area, leaving up to 157 support workers jobless.

The Tory-led council – which needs to save £100m over the next four years – is planning on giving cash to voluntary and community groups so they can offer activities for youngsters instead.

Speaking before the debate, which will take place during a meeting of the full council on April 18, Cllr Barry Lewis, cabinet member for young people, said: “We will carefully examine all the views and a report will be put together for consideration by our cabinet in May.”

The authority will hold a debate on a particular issue if a petition attracts at least 7,500 signatures – but Ann Western, leader of the council’s Labour group, said this had never happened before.

She added: “I’m overwhelmed by the level of support for this petition – it just goes to show that people are very opposed to these proposals.

“I hope that the council is listening to everyone.”

The news comes just days before the end of a consultation into the plans.

The talks – which have attracted about 3,000 responses so far – will finish this Sunday, March 18.

Cllr Lewis said the county’s youth clubs were expensive to run and used by just 28 per cent of 13-to-19-year-olds.

He added: “We need to find better ways of delivering high-quality services, so they’re available when and where youngsters need them.

“We’re listening to all views raised by this consultation and recognising the good work being done with young people by our youth service and the voluntary sector.”

To take part in the consultation, visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/youthservice2012. To request a paper copy of the consultation questionnaire, contact Bish Sharif on 01629 535700 or email bish.sharif@derbyshire.gov.uk.

l Where would the axe fall if you were in charge at the council? Email comment@derbyshiretimes.co.uk.

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