Prime minister Cameron’s ‘zero tolerance’ attack on youth comes as government cuts are decimating youth services.
Unite the union announced at the weekend that youth workers employed by Oxfordshire county council will begin a series of one-day walkouts from Tuesday 23 August over job cuts and service closures.
The union said: ‘The jobs of around 80 youth workers, who care for hundreds of vulnerable young people across the county, are at risk as the council pushes ahead with its re-structuring exercise.
‘The cuts will hit the prime minister’s constituency of Witney where people as young as 12 years of age have been fighting to save their youth service.’
Unite has said that the Tory-led council’s decision to offload the running of its 26 youth centres and two detached youth teams ‘exposes a local authority with scant regard for the needs of young people in the county’, warning that dismantling the top class youth service will push young people onto the streets.
Oxfordshire county council plans to slash youth service funding from £3.7 million to £1.4 million making the county the lowest contributor to youth services in all of England.
Unite warned: ‘Within the council’s overall budget of £800 million, the cut will save a miniscule 0.17 per cent, but the impact on the service and its recipients will be huge and very damaging.’
Mike Beal, chair of the Unite community and youth worker sector Oxford, said: ‘Youth workers would much rather be doing their jobs but the council is turning its back on young people.
‘They will take strike action with a very heavy heart, but how else can they get an unthinking council to listen?
‘Oxfordshire county council’s plans to dismantle its youth service are short-sighted.
‘They will tear apart the youth service at the very time when it is needed most.
‘I have spoken to a number of young people who all say that without their local youth club they would be hanging out on street corners. Youth clubs provide safe places for them to go.
‘Across the county, young people have shown again and again that they are not as portrayed, as apathetic, and that they do want to contribute to Oxfordshire by fighting to save their services.
‘By ignoring their pleas, this council risks confirming young people’s worst suspicions, that politicians are not interested in them.
‘Oxfordshire county council is failing young people and failing its dedicated workforce of trained, professional youth workers.
‘The youth service in Oxfordshire is top class. It is efficient and far more cost effective than picking up the pieces afterwards.
‘The jobs we do make a difference to young lives. Oxfordshire county council must think again.’
Workers were balloted on the 18 July with the majority (14 to 1) voting in favour of strike action.
• At the end of last month, Unison members in Birmingham met to forge a way forward in defending the under-fire Connexions service in the area.
The youth service is facing a particular hammering as councils fall over themselves to make cuts, and Birmingham is one of five local authorities that has chosen to inflict the maximum cuts – it is proposing to slash 33 per cent off the budget.