“The Rock” smashed as Balsall Common Parish Council deprives Youth and Community Centre of funds

Balsall Parish Council have decided that the Jubilee Youth and Community Centre is unworthy of the annual £10K funding it has provided since the centre’s inception over a decade ago. The impact of this decision is that the centre will close and two part time youth workers will lose their jobs. Defenders of the centre, led by Mike Longfield, fear that this will weaken community cohesion and result in a worrying increase in vandalism and anti-social behaviour in Balsall Common, as bored youths will be driven out into the parks and onto our streets.

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Will Heard, chairman of the Balsall Parish council, has justified the decision to remove the centre’s funding. It is felt that individual one-off grants to youth organisations are preferable to committing to long term expenditure. For example, this year, local scouting organisations received approximately £4K whilst the football and rugby clubs received a similar amount.

The Balsall & Berkswell Jubilee project is a registered charity founded in 2002 as a joint enterprise between Balsall Parish council and Berkswell Parish council. Large amounts of money were raised to establish its building centrally located in Balsall Common in the carpark behind HSBC on Station Road. The centre provides a youth club “The Rock” which, in addition to giving local youth a place to socialise, provides structured activities, work experience, education and career mentoring. You may be unaware that it also supports vulnerable young people at risk of abuse or self-harm. The centre also accommodates older people in the daytime.

The decision has split the parish council. Tempers flared at their heated meeting on the 15th July, with councillors involved in the centre excluded from voting on the decision. With upwards of £50k in council reserves and, until recently, £10k ringfenced for the centre, the decision is seen by some as both ideological and too abrupt. The council claims it is committed to sustainable funding opportunities for local youth and suggests that the centre should do more to pay its own way. But for now, the shutters remain down; the Jubilee has no cause for celebration.