COUNCIL chiefs clashed in a heated six-hour debate about controversial proposals to axe youth clubs.
The unprecidented debate, held at Derbyshire County Council headquarters in Matlock yesterday afternoon, was triggered after more than 16,000 people signed a petition against the plans.
Derbyshire County Council is proposing 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 grants to voluntary and community groups so they can offer activities for youngsters instead.
Greg Roberts, 16, of Eckington Youth Club, handed in the petition, which calls on Derbyshire County Council to retain a directly-provided youth service.
During the debate, Councillor Barry Lewis, cabinet member for young people, said: “This petition has all the hallmarks of militant Labour scaremongering.”
His comments caused outrage among protesters in the packed public gallery.
Cllr Lewis said that youth clubs were expensive to run and used by just 28 per cent of 13-to-19-year-olds.
He added the council was looking to find better ways of delivering high-quality services so they are available when and where youngsters need them.
Anne Western, leader of the council’s Labour group, said councillors had ignored the petition and refused to take any action on it.
She added: “It’s absolutely crazy.
“Where are people going to be heard? Where’s the democracy?”
For more on this story, see next week’s Derbyshire Times.