DON’T it always seem to go, you don’t what you got till it’s gone…? So says the immensely talented and prophetic Joni Mitchell and that will be the case if certain cuts to our community and public services are carried out.

The consultations on birthing centres, education, youth services etc, the list goes on, have been and are possibly merely lip service proffering the idea that we live in anything that really represents a democracy.

I have had reason to partake of the services offered by the Rise Trust at the wonderful Baby Steps course and have also had the pleasure of supporting them, with my colleagues in their Youth Café provision at the Olympiad Centre in Chippenham.

Four fantastic women from the Rise Trust, two paid and two volunteering, have been providing sanctuary for a large group of young people every week. The space that they occupy is gratefully received, but not purpose built like the previous provision at the Bridge Centre, which now unfortunately just provides a sanctuary for cars as opposed to an empathetically built centre for our community and young people as they navigate one of the most challenging stages in their young lives.

Adults who now make ill-advised decisions on legislating for their needs are in reality cutting youth provision, as children and young people do not have a powerful or organised voice, such as those from other sectors of our community…our well-informed senior citizens perhaps.

Although there are many hard-working and dedicated councillors at town and county level, the LYN group, for example, being a group of dedicated and supportive individuals, the wider responsibility for legislating and policy-making for our young people, particularly those going through adolescence, should be taken at a national level, and not left to county and town councillors who are, in reality, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic when it comes to any real budgetary control on the reduced amounts from national government.

We are fast approaching the time when there are no professional youth workers in our county. Considering the vast amounts of negative spend (ie, money spent on sending young people through the judicial system, mending properties, mental health, broken lives, etc) suggests that this is a false economy, one that is and will prove itself to be counter intuitive and counter-productive. Young people have never needed more support that it appears they do at this point in our social history.

The second area of our wondrous community that I have had the pleasure of observing first-hand is the fantastic birthing centre at Chippenham Hospital. The midwives and support staff are an inspiration. They perform as close to miracles as I am prepared to believe exist.

With an empathy and charm which, at such a vital point in a human life, is as a significant an input to the wellbeing of not only the countless individuals that they safely guide into this hectic world but to our society in general. We need to identify and value the areas of our

communities that need to exist as essential parts of our societal structure. Birthing centres, such as the one in Chippenham, are vital in allowing our future generations the best possible start in life that, followed by the principle of Sure Start early years centres, such as the ones run by the Rise Trust are vital to our collective wellbeing.

Any politician who believes in denying any child a 'sure start' to life should take a good long hard look at themselves and, at a time of the year when thoughts turn to mystical births, let us hope that we are not scrambling around in the dark having to make do with mangers, as society holds up a sign that says: “There’s no room at the inn”.