This year, Tory controlled Staffordshire County Council voted to close all youth centres with the blessing of UKIP. Every single youth club in Staffordshire and Kidsgrove will close on the 31st December. This means that all youth provision will end, despite 16000 people signing a petition against the decimation of these much needed services. The youth service also has the responsibility of co-ordinating youth forums, youth councils and the UK youth parliament scheme. I was once a UK youth parliament candidate at 16 and the experience was invaluable.
At a meeting of the Staffordshire Advisory Board, Councillors Mark Sutton and Mike Lawrence, along with Commissioner Sharon Moore, put forward plans to scrap formal youth councils in favour of an entirely online model. This is apparently another attempt to further slash costs, but modernise services. I do love the ‘modernise services’ line, its unbelievably false!
My personal belief is that this is actually a way of silencing young people out of democracy. As we all know, young people have been very vocal about the youth service shut down. Who can blame them? The service has served our communities on all fronts for a very long time and in some cases transformed young lives. What particularly worries me is that progress we have made in recent years involving young people is now going to hit a brick wall. Young people already feel apathetic about local government and politics, so what does this say to them. The County Council should think again, because a lot of the young people involved in these youth forums and councils are usually the leaders of tomorrow. An online service will be completely inadequate and I am not comfortable with the idea of all human interaction done through a computer. We will also have a national youth parliament with no representation from Staffordshire. At a time when we should be on the national stage promoting our County, we are shutting ourselves out.
Without the formal support of the County Council, communities will find it very difficult to put in place their own youth parliaments. Luckily, Kidsgrove already has its own youth parliament and the organisation makes a positive difference in the locality. These things don’t get set up over night and the co-ordinators need to be dedicated to them or they just don’t work. I remain concerned that many local villages and towns in Staffordshire simply wont have the resources to set these organisations up. Only to leave young people without a voice in a fast changing world.
I will look forward to working with young people in the near future to see what we can do to deflect the damage caused by selfish politicians.
I can announce that Kidsgrove Railway Station has been included in the next tranche of access for all funding. Campaigners have fought for years for the station to be considered for a government grant. As it stands, people with disabilities cannot get across the footbridge due to 3 flights of steps. Not only does the current bridge affect the disabled, but also people with pushchairs and the elderly. It is estimated that the cost of replacing the bridge with a ramped bridge is in the region of at least £3 Million. This is some of the biggest investment Kidsgrove has seen in a very long time and is welcomed by many people in the local community. Joan Walley MP has fought a long battle with the department of transport in parliament and finally the work has paid off. Last year the community pulled together, signed petitions and wrote letters to Transport ministers. Joan Walley, Jon Honeysett MBE, Councillors, the friends of Kidsgrove Station and key local figures should be thanked for all of their hard work to make this dream a reality.
In an email to campaigners and supporters, Joan wrote:
I am delighted to be able to tell you that all our efforts to campaign for disabled access at Kidsgrove Railway Station have been successful- the Department for Transport have today announced that Kidsgrove has been included in the next tranche of Access for All funding!
This wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t put together such a strong campaign and I want to thank you for all your efforts on this. I believe this could be truly transformational for the town. We must now get on with the planning stage so that this bridge is built as soon as possible and we must also work to get integrated bus services in the town too.
I will be organising a follow up meeting to take forward our plans and I will let you know about this asap.
Ruth Smeeth has been selected by Stoke on Trent North Labour Party to be the Parliamentary Candidate in the 2015 General Election. Joan Walley MP announced her retirement in late 2013. The hustings and selection took place at Kidsgrove Town Hall with over 100 Labour Party members turning up for the vote. All candidates performed well during their speeches and question session. Zaeba Hanif and Katie Ghose were also on the shortlist and fought hard for the support of members across the constituency. Ruth won the ballot and is now the official candidate. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ruth on her success. I backed Ruth from the start because of her fighting spirit and her inspiring positive attitude to life. Ruth will stand up for everyone and not just the few. We believe in Ruth as much as we have believed in Joan for so many years!