In this article, Tracey Huffer writes about the growing threat to Ludlow Youth Centre. That threat began in 2014, when Philip Dunne MP and the then portfolio holder for young people, Gwilym Butler, visited a youth club session to brief the youngsters about the decision to convert half the building into offices. Rarely have I seen two politicians so out of their comfort zone and that evening reduced the political stature of both men.
But that was the start of Shropshire Council’s campaign to reduce the use of Ludlow Youth Centre and now, we fear, to close it all together. Over the last seven years, the council has placed ever tighter restrictions on the use of the centre. At one point, council officers instructed that posters – many of which promoted youth health – should be taken down because posters are not allowed in “corporate buildings”.
Now, Shropshire Council has restricted use of the remaining youth space to three people at any time. Allowing for the legally required level of supervision, that’s a youth club of one person. It took 25 years for Ludlow to get a dedicated Youth Centre for Ludlow. We must not lose it.
This media release has just been issued.
“I’m astounded,” Tracey Huffer says. “I have never seen anything more byzantine than this in my many years as a district and unitary councillor.”
Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East, says she is shocked by Shropshire Council’s decision to restrict indoor attendance at youth events in Ludlow’s dedicated Youth Centre to just three people. Allowing for supervisors that means only one young person can be in the building at any time.
“This is nonsense”, Tracey says. “The whole point of a youth club is to have young people mixing.
“The council says that the restriction is because there is insufficient air circulation in the foyer of the building. The foyer has wide double doors and is very well ventilated.
“The council also says we can’t have more than three people inside the foyer with the wide doors open because they might get cold. But children and youth workers can meet outside regardless of the weather.
“The council says the offices in the building, which were previously specialist space to mentor and train young people, can be used because they have small windows that can be opened.
“I have never heard such nonsense. There are restrictions like this in other buildings. This whole affair is byzantine.
“Our struggles to keep the Youth Centre go back to 2014 when Shropshire Council, supported by Philip Dunne MP, decided that half the Youth Centre should be given up to be used as office space. The reason given then was the council’s financial situation. It has now become clear that the council’s objective has all along been to close the Youth Centre to youth activities. The Youth Centre is now regarded only as a financial asset and the council is determined to make as much money as possible out of it.
“We are just about to restart our Ludlow Young Health project. Originally launched with the Children’s Society, we intend to reintroduce this service in October. Ludlow Young Health is a drop in service that gives young people, their parents and carers with expert advice on how to cope with challenges to their wellbeing and mental health. The feedback has been hugely positive.
“Mental health and wellbeing issues among young people have grown during the pandemic. But under Shropshire Council’s ventilation rules, Ludlow Young Health will have to move to another location breaking its association with Ludlow’s centre for young people. That’s a problem because young people have seen the Youth Centre as a focus for activity and advice for decades.
“Other than a limited outreach service, Shropshire Council now puts no money into youth services in Ludlow. The youth services we still have are supported by Ludlow Town Council, the Mayor’s Charity and charitable groups.
“I fear that very soon, the Youth Centre will be put up for sale as a business unit or housing plot.
“Shropshire Council has lost its sense of direction. Its bottom line should be supporting communities, not plugging holes it its budget by selling or letting community assets.”