FEARS have been raised that hundreds of young people in the Staffordshire Moorlands could lose their youth clubs and activities if changes to the way services are delivered go ahead.
Staffordshire County Council has started a consultation lasting until February 26 outlining major plans to change the way youth services are run, including working more effectively with a range of public bodies and voluntary organisations.
The proposals cover services for young people aged between 13 to 19, or 25 for those with a learning difficulty or disability.
Volunteer youth worker at Mountside Youth Club in Leek, Josh Wright, said closure of the facilities would have a great impact on young people across Leek and the surrounding areas.
He said: "This would affect between 500 and 600 young people in Leek alone on a weekly basis.
"These young people are taken off the streets and are supervised and safe at nights at various locations across the town. We have handed out questionnaires and have had an astounding response.
"However, the questionnaires have been put together by the county council and are very long and exhaustive, and contain leading questions hinting at the closure of facilities.
"The closure of youth facilities would affect Mountside Youth Club; Mountside Lunchtime Club; The @21 centre; Leek Sports Club; movies and detached youth work; the Youth of Moorlands Council; and the Duke of Edinburgh open award centre; and outdoor activities which take place throughout the week."
Speaking at last week's meeting of the district council's resources overview and scrutiny panel, Councillor Linda Malyon claimed the decision to close the youth clubs had already been taken.
She said: "I have been told that the youth buses that come to Ipstones and other areas have been sold.
"Young people in rural areas are dependant on this service as it is all they have got.
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"I have also been told that the county council will offer districts £50,000 to take over the services. This could involve town or parish councils.
"The county council is also holding a meeting with the district council on January 23, but it is not open to everyone.
"Consultation is about consulting. This is an underhanded method. I believe the deal is done."
However, the county council has denied that the buses have been sold, but admitted proposals have been looked to give voluntary groups in each district £50,000.
Mark Sutton, cabinet support member for public health and community safety, said: "No decisions have been made on the future of our youth services. We are currently consulting with people across Staffordshire and asking how we should provide what young people want.
"Currently four out of five young people are not using the services we provide.
"In a rapidly changing world we need to adapt and change the way we operate to provide the support and activities that young people want and need today and into the future.
"Our proposal is about working closer and more effectively with the huge range of community and voluntary organisations who work with young people, while targeting support at those who need it most.
"The consultation is open until February 26. We want to hear from local people and we will be listening to what they tell us, before making a final decision on the proposal at cabinet in March."
District councillor for the Endon and Brown Edge ward, Christina Jebb, said the proposed changes could have "massive implications" for the Moorlands.
She said: "The survey talks about a variety of out of school activities already being provided by voluntary groups and organisations, like Scouts and Guides.
"It says that the county council wishes to target limited resources towards the more vulnerable young people – and that obviously has to be a priority. But not all young people live in urban areas with easy access to community facilities.
"There are particular problems for young people in rural areas who wish to access leisure and learning opportunities out of school times and during holidays, but often have poor access to public transport."