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More cuts to Wiltshire's youth service and the future of Marlborough's "former Youth Centre" remains uncertain

The withdrawal last year of Wiltshire Council's youth services saw the number of youth workers cut from 150 to 18, responsibility for further services passed to the community via the Area Boards and the future of Marlborough's Youth Centre put in doubt.

Now it has been announced that those 18 youth workers are being cut to seven - because, it is reported, an increase in volunteer groups means Wiltshire Council no longer needs so many staff.  And the future of Marlborough's Youth Centre is still undecided.

At the moment Wiltshire Council is running down the building that stands beside the recreation ground and is now known as "the former Youth Centre".  It still, however, hosts two regular weekly youth club groups - and the time limit for future bookings has been extended by Wiltshire Council from their original April deadline until June.

The 'centre' is not lying idle - altogether five groups have still been using it: the two youth clubs (Devotion Youth Project and the Marlborough Community Youth Project - MCYP), Barnardo's Phoenix Club, We Love Marlborough and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme.  There is no caretaker, but Wiltshire Council says the building is being cleaned.

Any damage has to be reported to Wiltshire Council and they say: "Some of the damage does not pose a health and safety risk and therefore will not be repaired."  

That the 'centre' is no longer considered a service provided by Wiltshire Council is shown in their statement: "The costs of maintaining and running the building considerably outweighs the income received from hiring fees and the repair costs over the last 12 months or so have risen sharply."

There are three options on the table for the building:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

1.  It could be sold to a developer. The sale could include some neighbouring land and buildings that Wiltshire Council owns.

2.  Wiltshire Council could keep the building and develop it into a 'Hub' to bring together other council services.  Marlborough.news knows that this option is being considered, though details are not being made.  

The idea of concentrating Council services into fewer buildings was the aim of  the Campus Programme (since renamed the 'Health and Wellbeing Programme') and was a policy aimed at reducing the number of Council buildings and therefore its costs.

Whatever the programme is now called, when Marlborough's Campus Team approached Wiltshire Council it was told very firmly that there was no money left for a Marlborough 'Hub', let alone a the full Campus treatment complete with state of the art all-weather sports pitches.

3.  Marlborough Town Council has expressed an interest in taking the building over under a Community Asset Transfer agreement.  The financial consequences of such a transfer have yet to be spelled out - partly because the costs of running the building (such as its business rates) have not been revealed.

Town councillor Justin Cook, who with fellow councillors Farrell, Hall and Light, have been running the popular MCYP club evenings at the centre, believes this could be a great chance for the town to do something really worthwhile for their young people:

"The issues surrounding the youth centre", Cook told Marlborough.news, "are worrying to say the least. However, it could also be a golden opportunity for the town to really deliver something for the youth as they have been so badly let down in the past and we can change that in the future by acquiring the youth centre for the community."

"Perhaps we should look at setting up some kind of trust that can manage the building, there are lots of routes to finance and fund raising which all of us at MCYP are prepared to do so we can secure the centre for the youth of the community."

With responsibility for youth services devolved to the Area Boards, if the 'centre' is no longer available, it will be up to the Area Board to identify suitable locations for youth activities and make sure they are appropriate and safe.

Wiltshire Council is currently exploring and costing the various options for the building.  

Anyone wishing to visit it again - for old time's sake? - will get an opportunity when it is used as a Polling Station for the Police and Crime Commissioner election in May and for the EU referendum in June.

In the meantime please write to us with your ideas for the future of this valuable asset.

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