DUDLEY’S children’s services boss has admitted the council may soon be unable to provide any youth services for borough teens, if budget cuts continue.
The council’s pot of cash for youth provision currently stands at £1.6million per year – just over half what it was in 2010/11; and department chiefs expects the budget to continue to fall considerably in future years.
Youth services in the borough has already been earmarked to take a hit to help the council achieve savings of £180,000 in 2014/15 and up to £380,000 by 2015/16.
The cuts mean three Dudley youth centres – Kingswinford, Nine Locks in Brierley Hill and Sedgley – are facing the axe, and up to ten members of staff in the youth service may lose their jobs.
But Councillor Tim Crumpton, Dudley’s cabinet member for children’s services, fears the council may not be able to provide any of its own youth services in a couple of years time if the cuts continue at the current pace.
He said: “We may come to the point where we can no longer provide services; we’ve got to prepare for this - we have got to find some other way of doing it.
“I’m not just going to sit there and wait for it to happen; by June we have got to have a plan in place.”
Cllr Crumpton, who has long championed young people in the borough, said the council has already begun talks with Dudley Council for Voluntary Services over how volunteer and community groups can play a part in providing services and activities for youngsters aged 11 to 25 across the borough.
He added: "We know there are a lot of services currently out there for young people – we’re going to work with them.
"We've got to change with the times and we hope to provide a better service than we've got now."
In the council's Big Question consultation, which asked borough residents to rate the services they value most, youth provision was almost at the bottom of the list of priorities - sitting just above benefits and welfare services.
The findings were presented to Dudley Council's cabinet on February 12, along with a 1,935-name petition from Dudley Youth Council calling on council bosses not to forget them when making budget cuts.
Cllr Crumpton said he was not "closing youth centres for closing's sake" and he stressed services provided at the threatened centres would continue elsewhere.
He said youngsters from Kingswinford had already been directed to services at The Source in Wordsley; discussions were ongoing over the future of Sedgley Youth Centre; and youth provision would continue in Brierley Hill despite plans to hand over of the town's youth centre to the council's adult learning department.