“Shropshire Council has all but disowned the young people in this county. That’s a disgrace.”
That’s the view of Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East after a cabinet meeting this morning. Tracey had asked a series of questions to the council’s cabinet today. Shropshire Council failed to give a guarantee that Ludlow Youth Centre will reopen but said it hoped it might be used for community purposes in the future. It would not guarantee that the Youth Centre, valued at £851,000 on its books, will not be sold to help plug its growing gap in capital finances. It would not guarantee that Ludlow Youth Centre will reopen for young people.
That’s it then. A process begun in 2014 with the full support of our local MP has led to closure of Ludlow Youth Centre. What do we do now?
Shropshire councillor Gwilym Butler and Ludlow MP Philip Dunne kickstarted this process in 2014 when they arrived at Ludlow Youth Centre to lecture to the young people present that half the centre was in future to be used as offices. Music Room gone. Break out rooms gone. Privacy gone. A ban on posters on walls – in a Youth Centre?. Office workers complaining about the noise and restrictions. As an adult you cannot go into a toilet when young people are using it. Now, Shropshire Council says that Ludlow Youth Centre is unfit for use by young people due to lack of ventilation. That’s despite the double doors at the entrance to the foyer. The offices (formerly youth spaces) have small windows and have been cleared for use.
This is a Youth Centre. It was funded with public money, much of it from the EU. But once Shropshire Council realised that it was not longer bound by any legal constraints, it has worked hard to close the Youth Centre down.
Tracey Huffer says:
“ The responses to my questions to Shropshire Council’s cabinet today were dismal. They weren’t answered from a youth perspective. No concerns were shown for the needs of young people. It was only about managing the council’s buildings as corporate assets.
“This is so wrong. Mental health and wellbeing issues among young people have increased during the pandemic. Now Shropshire Council is using the pandemic as an excuse to close youth facilities forever.
“No one would think that Ludlow Youth Centre lacks ventilation with its wide double doors. It is crazy that the small offices in the same building can be used with small windows open but the large foyer and kitchen space cannot be used. It is crazy that children can mix at school, at the cinema and elsewhere but cannot take part in activities at the Ludlow Youth Centre.
“The council is suggesting that we need air conditioning in a naturally ventilated building. That is so out of date. Shropshire Council has declared a climate emergency and we should be reducing energy costs not increasing them.
“I don’t know what we do next. For the last seven years, Shropshire Council has been trying to shut the youth centre by stealth. It now says it is closed “for the foreseeable future”.
“The council will have its eye on the £850,000 value of the site at a time when it is struggling to pay the costs for the North West Relief Road and redevelopment of the Shrewsbury shopping centres.
“We need an independent assessment of the council’s position on this. Above all we need a rethink on where Shropshire Council is going on supporting young people and their mental health and wellbeing.
“Ludlow Young Youth Club is now homeless. I fear that we will not be able restart Ludlow Young Health, which provides drop in sessions for young people, parents and carers, next month. We have nowhere to go.
“Ludlow Youth Centre was purpose built with public funds after a 25-year campaign by Ludlow residents. Shropshire Council took away the music and break out rooms. Now it has closed the Youth Centre down altogether.
“A council that has any concern for young people would have put in place emergency arrangements for youth provisions. But Shropshire Council has all but disowned the young people in this county. That is a disgrace.”