Update 28 November
The town council deferred discussion of our letter to a later meeting while it seeks further information. Shropshire Council told the South Shropshire Journal said “there are no planned changes for Ludlow Youth Centre.” That’s not the same as saying it won’t sell the youth centre if it thinks it can get away with it.
The four Shropshire councillors for Ludlow and Clee are asking the town council to ‘adopt’ the Youth Centre. The letter below will be considered at Ludlow town council on Monday, 24 November.
We are in tough times at the moment. Our budget for youth services in the town has been slaughtered. We will have just £10,850 to spend on staff and activities next year.
We are really worried that we will lose our Youth Centre. We are concerned that Shropshire Council will either convert the entire building to offices, or sell it off.
This town worked hard to get a youth centre. It persuaded the EU to pay for much of it. Now we are in danger of losing a centre that provides so much support for vulnerable youngsters.
But Shropshire Council doesn’t care about this. In my view it no longer cares about young people. It only sees youngsters as an expense, not the foundations of our future.
We have asked Ludlow Town Council to register the Youth Centre as an Asset of Community Value under the Localism Act. That way we will have a chance of buying the building if Shropshire Council decides to sell it. We have also suggested that the council considers taking over the centre via a Community Asset Transfer.
The Youth Centre is not Shropshire Council’s building. It belongs to this town. But that won’t stop it selling it to make a quick buck. That’s why we need to act now, so that we can retain what we already own.
Letter to Shropshire Council
9 November 2014
The future of Ludlow Youth Centre
As you know the future of youth services across all of Shropshire is uncertain. We ask you to bring this letter to Ludlow Town councillors at the earliest opportunity.
Shropshire Council is transforming itself into a commissioning body. Youth services will in future be managed by the Local Joint Committees who will commission local providers. The details of these new arrangements are far from clear. The level of funding for towns like Ludlow is even less certain.
Youth staff based in Ludlow are set to be made redundant or their part time hours cancelled. They may be re-employed by the new providers commissioned locally, they may not. A lot will depend on how much money will be available. That could be as low as zero, depending on the funding formula adopted by Shropshire Council.
We have tried to ascertain the future of Ludlow Youth Centre to little avail. We are told that its future will depend on the new, unknown, local provider commissioned by the LJC. If the provider doesn’t use it – we don’t yet know whether the provider will be charged for use – then the Youth Centre could become a redundant building.
We have seen how keen Shropshire Council is to sell its buildings with its attempts to sell Stone House and Coder Road.
We urge Ludlow Town Council to take two actions:
1) Community Right to Bid
We ask the council to register the Youth Centre as an asset of community value. It is clear to us that Youth Centre meets the criteria for registration. We can’t see how Shropshire Council can turn such an application down. This has no cost implications for Ludlow Town Council. If Shropshire Council then decides to sell the Youth Centre, the town council has the option to lead a Community Right to Bid to buy it. It will have six months to do so but it is not committed to bidding to buy the Centre. Neither is Shropshire Council committed to sell it to the town council or any other community body. But it will be under a moral obligation to do so. We simply ask that the town council takes the first step by registering the building as an asset of community value.
2) Community Asset Transfer
A second option is for the Youth Centre to be transferred to Ludlow Town Council under the Community Asset Transfer scheme. This has financial implications and we ask that the town council makes an initial appraisal of whether a transfer is appropriate and feasible.
Most people in the town will think that this is our Youth Centre, not Shropshire Council’s. We agree with that sentiment. People fought hard for two decades to get it built and to get European funds for construction. There were a lot of personal donations to ensure it was fitted out in a way that benefits young people of this town. Unfortunately, this community effort seems to count for nothing under Shropshire Council’s commissioning and asset disposal models.
Anyone who has visited our Youth Centre or talked to a youngster who goes there knows how valuable this building is to Ludlow. It’s not just a place to go and have fun. It’s a haven where people with significant challenges can find respite. They can be supported and be encouraged, and given specialist help when needed. They can socialise in a supervised environment, rather than on the streets.
Despite these benefits, we are in significant danger of losing our Youth Centre. We are not certain what will need to be done to save it. We are not certain that if Shropshire Council decided to sell it we could raise funds to buy it. But we are convinced that if we lose this vital building our ability to help young people and steer them towards better lives will be severely diminished.
That’s why we are asking the town council to urgently apply for this building to be an asset of community value. We are also asking it to review whether a Community Asset transfer might be appropriate and achievable.
We thank you for considering this matter.
With best wishes
Andy Boddington, Richard Huffer, Tracey Huffer, Vivienne Parry
Shropshire unitary councillors for Ludlow and Clee
Assets of Community Value by the House of Commons Library