Hogarth Youth Centre Future Appears Doomed

Hounslow Council's youth budget cutbacks will go ahead


Battle To Save Hogarth Youth Centre Appears Doomed

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Councillor John Todd who has been campaigning to save Hogarth Youth Centre and other youth clubs from closure has said he is very disappointed that it looks likely the Council will not reconsider its decision to make "pernicious" funding cuts.

The Chiswick councillor had won a victory last month when he persuaded the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee to recommend the Council's cabinet reconsider its decision to make £650,000 worth of savings to youth services.

The cutbacks will lead to the destaffing and closure of the Hogarth Centre in Duke Road as well as youth centres in Hounslow and Hanworth.

While the Scrutiny Committee criticised the scale and pace in the reduction of funding and recommended that the Cabinet reconsider its decision it now looks very unlikely that the Council will change its mind.

Lead member Councillor Tom Bruce, said the Committee's response was "unexpected" and it had not provided any practical alternative discussions to offset the savings proposed in the Youth Service Budget.

"Whilst the time delays due to leave did not help, this has been a challenging ‘call in’ process for all involved. A significant amount of officer time has been spent pulling together information requested following the submission of the ‘call in’ in July, which has impacted on officers from several services across the Council.

"It was not always clear what the specific reasons for call in were, and whether appropriate support was in place to ensure that the democratic process was followed, whilst avoiding an unduly arduous and on occasion disproportionate, resource intensive process."

Councillor Tom Bruce will recommend to the next cabinet meeting (10 October ) that the cutbacks go ahead and that all three recommendations from the Overview Committee be rejected. He said alternative cutback options had been explored and would be worse. Discussions on the youth budget had been going on since summer 2016.

A one-off transition funding of £450,000 would be made available to the service as the budget was reduced. The 'call-in' by Councillor Todd has delayed implementation of the new service. The timeline now is that the procurement process will begin in January 2018, with staff redundancy notices issued from March 2018. The new services should be implemented by September 2018.

hogarth youth centre

John Todd has hit back at these comments. He said, "I'm naturally disappointed that the cabinet can be so brutal in dealing with such an important subject. Despite a number of petitions, a record response to a consultation and the robust recommendations of six of their fellow labour administration councillors on the Overview & Scrutiny committee, not one change to the original flawed report is recommended.

"Indeed the cabinet report expresses surprise at the decision of the O&S committee, raises queries about the credibility of the call-in reasons and gives veiled criticism of the excessive amount of officer time taken by me in my endeavours to establish the facts surrounding the proposed cuts.

"During my enquiries I established that the actual saving was £750,000, that officers were unable to explain detail of reductions in budget heads mentioned in the report, that certain financial data was either wrong or didn't add up and that an Equalities Impact Assessment in the report was the wrong version. At the call-in meeting much play was made on whether one or more youth clubs will or may close. I know at least one will.

"I established too that there was a material saving to be made in respect of one valued youth club in Hounslow. This club has been going for over fifty years operating and funded by LBH. Their incredible clients include 100 plus physically and mentally challenged people who rely on this club for a social life and chance to succeed.

"The Council over this period, unlike others. has only given them a lease at will which gives just one days security of tenure. The club knows that a lease even for a year would enable them to totally fund the club (£65k plus) and in doing so ensure their financial viability. LBH are aware of this unacceptable treatment of a valued club although not the cabinet member. Interestingly no mention of this matter in the forthcoming Cabinet paper.

"To reduce the youth service budget by 78% is brutal and unnecessary. It is a valued service which provides so much for those who need security, stimulation and skills to enable them to succeed in a tough world."

Hounslow Council's current youth service budget is £865,000 but is set to be reduced by £650,000 in March 2018, leaving £215,000, with three years of additional transitional funding of £150,000 a year. The Centre in Duke Road would no longer have full-time staffing as the Council proposed a detached 'mobile' service of youth workers to provide help on the streets across the borough. They would use community facilities in emergencies.

Cllr Todd says his research of funding across all London boroughs shows that Hounslow, in real terms, would suffer the greatest loss of funding - a 78% drop. This would be in a borough which already has a 32% poverty level. This compares to Ealing, which after its cutbacks would still have a youth budget of £580,000, more than double that of Hounslow. You can read Cllr Todd's submission to the Council about their proposals.

The centre in Duke Road is managed by the charitable Hogarth Trust and partly funded by Hounslow Council. There has already been an angry response in Chiswick with a petition and a march of over 100 people to Hounslow Council's headquarters at the Civic Centre. Over 200 people attended the consultation meeting in Chiswick.

Those who have spoken out against the cutbacks include former Chiswick sergeant Dave Turtle who fears closure could lead to anti-social behaviour, and local school head teachers who spoke of the benefits to their pupils.

November 3, 2017

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