North Somerset Council Youth services' closure planned

Young people protest over planned cuts to youth services Young people and Unison members led a protest before the budget meeting

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Plans to cut the youth services budget in North Somerset by 71% over four years is "effectively stopping" the service, it has been claimed.

At a meeting on Tuesday evening the Conservative-run council voted through savings of £14.4m for the next financial year.

But Lib Dem Mike Bell said a key message from the community was that they want facilities for young people.

The council insists it will continue to provide targeted youth services.

They had faced months of pressure and protests, but North Somerset councillors did not shy away from making yet another round of painful cuts.

The council's ruling Conservatives have complained repeatedly that they get a raw deal from government funding, while reminding residents that council tax level is lower than many of their neighbours.

But they also want to be financially prudent. £1.5m is being set aside so council tax doesn't have to jump up next year.

Their opponents say it would be more prudent to spend some of that money now, avoiding drastic steps such as the termination of youth services.

Councillor Tony Lake, who is responsible for finance, said this would still happen but through a "different format".

"This is a model suggested by the government for providing local services using local people to do that.

"In some areas services for youth clubs have been provided by local people without input from the council for some time."

Mr Bell said his party wanted the council to invest money in its youth services and not make cuts.

"The council is proposing to cut the youth services' budget from £1.1m to just £300,000 over four years.

"People are always telling us they want facilities for young people but here in North Somerset this administration is going quite the other way," he added.

Many young people and Unison members gathered before the meeting to protest at the scale of the cuts waving posters and banners.

The meeting saw a budget voted through that would lead to the equivalent of 158 job losses over the next three years.

Council leader Nigel Ashton said: "We have been clear from the outset that having to make savings of over £47m by 2015 will mean the council will look, feel and operate very differently in the future.

"In addition to the funding gap of £17.5m met in the current financial year, next year we will have to make further savings of £14.4m."

The council said the deal would freeze council tax in North Somerset for a second year running.

It said the average Band D property will pay £1,146.40 for council services in 2012/13.

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