Row blows up over council youth service overhaul

Tower Hamlets Pic: Steven Haslington

Tower Hamlets Pic: Steven Haslington

A row has blown up between a group of campaigners who say that Tower Hamlets council is set to close 18 youth clubs and the local authority – who categorically deny the claims.

The group calling itself LBTH Youth launched a petition three weeks ago saying the council was to close the clubs  – 18 of 26 across the borough – and accusing them of “storing up social problems for the future”.

But the council said the figures were untrue. A spokesperson said: “At this stage, the final decision on the total number of youth centres that will remain open across Tower Hamlets has not been taken.

“The council has introduced an interim delivery model to ensure its youth centres are open to young people as set out in the published timetable. In the past this was not the case as many youth clubs were closed or not staffed when sessions should have been running.”

Tower Hamlets Council began an investigation into youth services in the borough last June after the newly appointed mayor John Biggs, a Labour councillor. took office following the ousting of disgraced former Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

At a meeting last month Deputy Mayor Rachael Saunders read from an email she had received about the services. She said: “The service has faced allegations of fraud, corruption, nepotism, failure to declare personal interests, failure to declare criminal convictions, breaches of recruitment and procurement services, breaches of the council’s financial regulations, and breaches in health & safety and data protection.”

She said the problems dated back to when Rahman was running the council.

Rahman, whose party Tower Hamlets Independent Group is still active in the borough, was removed from office in 2015 after being found guilty of corruption and malpractice and banned from office for five years.

LBTH Youth – who have not responded to requests for a comment – claim that they “believe that the Council are storing up social problems for the future which will cost more to fix in the long term as the closure of youth provisions by almost 75 per cent will make this worse”.

Councillor Oliur Rahman, leader of Tower Hamlets Independent Group which appears to have links to LBTH Youth, told ELL how he would tackle the current issues facing the youth service, saying: “They need to first identify what the issue is and where the problems have come from – what is the root of the problem – because there’s no point just making political statements and attacking the previous administration and so on and so forth.

“Continue the service until September then during that time the officers and the relevant authority conduct an investigation and publish the reports outcome and whatever recommendation or action they need to take, they take.”

 John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “We are being open and honest about shortcomings in youth service delivery and taking immediate steps to resolve them.

“We have reviewed the operation of the youth service and are taking interim steps to resolve failings that needed immediate attention. It would have been reckless not to act.’

Youth LBTH said in their petition they were worried about services carrying on over the summer. They said: “The closure of youth provisions will come into operation a week before the summer holidays starts.”

But the council said they had set up a scaled-back version of the services that reflected the developments and changes they were making to the service as a whole.

A spokesperson said: “The council is working hard to put together a full summer programme during August 2016 for young people aged 11-19 and up to 25 with special educational needs.
“The programme will be available to young people from 11am-5pm from Monday to Saturday with an additional evening programme titled “Summer Nights” delivered from our youth centres from 6pm to 9pm, Monday to Saturday. The council is investing a substantial amount into its Summer programme to ensure young people can access positive activities during the holiday break.”

This scaled-back service will be available from eight venues, six days a week and will offer a wide range of services for young people such as Duke of Edinburgh Awards, A Team Arts Tasters, guidance sessions and residential trips.

Leave a Reply