WHAT is believed to be the largest petition ever collected in Staffordshire has been presented to the county council in a bid to halt authority proposals to change the way youth clubs are run.
The 'Youth Against Staffordshire Cuts' group officially handed in the petition on Monday amid plans by the council to make 120 full-time workers redundant and replace them with volunteers.
The plans have raised fears that many clubs could close due to not enough volunteers being available, which would then lead to young people roaming on the streets with nothing to do.
The council said the shake-up would save at least £2.8 million a year at the same time as improving activities for teenagers currently shunning existing clubs.
Volunteer youth worker at Mountside Youth Club in Leek, Josh Wright, said closure of the facilities would have a heavy impact on young people across Leek and the surrounding areas, and would affect between 500 and 600 young people just in the town alone on a weekly basis.
In just three weeks Youth Against Staffordshire Cuts has managed to achieve handing in what is believed to be the largest petition ever, with 15,558 county-wide signatures. The petition has now triggered a full council debate on Thursday, March 13, at 10am. This normally requires at least 5,000 petition signatures.
The council's scrutiny committee is also expected to analyse the proposals.
Then on the March 19, the county council's ruling cabinet will meet to make its final decision.
However, this can be delayed if opposition parties 'call in' the decision, where a further review and discussions would be required by members.
Joe Porter, youth councillor for the Staffordshire Moorlands, said: "More than 15,000 signatures is an incredibly proud achievement for our campaign against the proposed cuts to Staffordshire's youth services. It is officially the largest petition ever handed into the county council and we've done it in just three weeks.
"I hope that all county councillors take note of this and seriously consider the potential impacts of their proposals and how passionate the people of Staffordshire are about their youth service."
Jennie Crosby, county-wide petition organiser said: "I am really pleased with the amount of signatures that we've collected in such a short space of time.
I hope that all members take notice of this at this month's full council debate on the matter."