Fears over youth service cuts raised by Malmesbury teenagers

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: With the colourful petition are Jess, Simone, Alice, Aston and Meghan, who are members of the Youth Advisory Group in Malmesbury With the colourful petition are Jess, Simone, Alice, Aston and Meghan, who are members of the Youth Advisory Group in Malmesbury

Youth service cuts were at the forefront of concerns raised at Malmesbury’s Area Board last week, with teenagers announcing they have collected a petition with more than 200 signatures from local young people.

A group of youths from Malmesbury School stepped up to speak out against the cuts, explaining what it will mean for them and the support networks around them.

Simone Snashall, 16, who is on the Youth Advisory Group (YAG), was among those at the meeting to champion their campaign to keep qualified youth workers in Malmesbury after the authority announced it would be slashing the youth service budget by nearly £200,000.

The four options being considered in the consultation on the cuts include retaining the service at a reduced cost, outsourcing youth work, turning it over to the community to run, or develop a public service mutual.

Simone said: “It’s really important we still have our youth workers because, although it would still be upsetting to lose our youth centres, our youth workers are really good and we need them.”

Group members have been asking students to sign a printed out banner of handprints on their lunch breaks, which they will continue to do until the end of the month.

Particular concern has been expressed for the future of the skate park which took nearly two decades to achieve.

“After 17 years of trying to get a skate park and having it open for only six months, it is devastating that it could be taken away from us,” Simone said.

“There is an option that it could be run by volunteers but the problem with that is they are not qualified; we need people who are professionally trained in that area to offer support as well.”

Councillor Richard Gamble, the portfolio holder for schools, skills and youth, said he was very impressed by the young people’s ‘sensible presentation’ and ‘wonderful-looking petition’.

He said: “The skatepark in Malmesbury is a popular facility; it’s been a great achievement to get it and it’s not one of our objectives to see it off in any fashion.

“Of the four options, we have said that we think the community-led option is the most attractive for the best possible outcome (Wiltshire-wide), but we haven’t finalised anything yet so I mustn’t pre-empt where we might end up.”

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