Cash crisis could shut historic Blackpool youth club

Youth worker Dave Blacker MBE with other members of Blackpool Boys and Girls Club.
Youth worker Dave Blacker MBE with other members of Blackpool Boys and Girls Club.
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An historic youth club which keeps children in one of Blackpool’s most deprived areas off the streets is in danger of closing down.

With not enough money in the coffers to pay for seven members of staff, Blackpool Boys and Girls Club, based in Queens Park, Layton, has been forced to cut its service from five days a week to just three.

Trustees of the charity have been left with a diminished budget to run the club after Blackpool Council slashed its youth services budget for the 2013/14 financial year – cash which the club had relied on.

Today, the trustees warned funds are “desperately low” and the long-term future of the 77-year-old club is in jeopardy.

The club, on Laycock Gate, has so far not been recommended for a grant from Blackpool Council’s Youth Fund, a total of £250,000 set aside to plug the gap left by cutting youth services.

Though the club is vowing to continue with a reduced service run by volunteers for at least the next six weeks, bosses admit its mid-to long-term future hangs in the balance.

Shirley Green, chairman of trustees, said: “The staff should have finished at the end of March and we extended for two months with just about enough money in the hope that if the council money came through the service would continue. Maybe we were banking on the Youth Fund too much, but because it hasn’t [come through] we’ve got to cut our services.”

The club has submitted a number of grant applications to other sources for funding.

The Boys and Girls Club put in a bid for £71,000 for the next financial year which would have covered the costs of activities and staffing, including full and part time staff.

Previously the club received £30,000 annually to fund the part time members of staff and the council further footed the cost of the one full-time member of staff, a cost of around £30,000.

The funding bid has not been recommended for approval by a specialist panel, made up by councillors.

Coun Chris Maughan, who chaired the panel overseeing the Youth Fund recommendations, said: “We appreciate there are a lot of young people and volunteers who have a major interest in the Youth Fund who would like a decision to have been made sooner.

“However, it is vital in any democratic organisations that all decisions are given thorough scrutiny.”

Mrs Green said: “I would have liked to see the council stick to tighter time schedules to tie in with people’s financial year ends and end of commissioning contracts.

“It would have been easier for us to make decisions ourselves if decisions had been made at the council in a more timely fashion.”

Ward councillors have pledged their support to the club, which offers activities including sport and art for children aged six and up.

Coun Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Coun Coleman and I have pledged £10,000 from our budget and have encouraged them to look for alternative sources of funding, as it is clear that they cannot continue to rely on the council for the bulk of their funding.”

Mrs Green said of the ward budget money promise: “[The money promised from our ward councillors] is a massive help to us, it’s great and extremely welcome but £10,000 isn’t £71,000, though it’s certainly a step in the right direction. We’ve included it in our plans but until it’s in the bank it can’t be spent.

“It’s not enough when we look at what our running costs are, we can’t say we’ll take staff back on with that money. Ultimately it’s about keeping the service open for the young people.”

Mum Deanna Grundy, 29, who has three children aged between five and 10, said: “If the club wasn’t there for our children I do worry about what would happen around the area. A lot of children will go down the wrong road if they don’t have it to go to.”

PC Dan Wood, community beat manager for Brunswick ward, said: “Anti-social behaviour has been the lowest it has been on the ward for some time and I have no doubt this is due in part to the fact the youths in the area have somewhere they can go socialise and engage in a range of activities during the evenings.”

Its building and maintenance costs in the last year were £12,000. The club is now open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday each week.

A total of 41 applications were received for the Youth Fund from voluntary, community and faith sector groups.

The recommendations from the panel, which include £22,940 for AFC Blackpool Juniors and £51,802 for Blackpool Carers Centre, look set to be approved by the council’s executive on June 17, after the decision was deferred last week.

To support Blackpool Boys and Girls Club, contact (01253) 391539.

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