Early Christmas gift for town’s youngsters

Sidmouth Youth Centre is set to be re-opened as a Christmas gift to the town's youngsters. Ref shs 2

Sidmouth Youth Centre is set to be re-opened as a Christmas gift to the town's youngsters. Ref shs 2335-49-14. Picture: Simon Horn. - Credit: Archant

Christmas has come early for Sidmouth’s youngsters as civic leaders have stepped in to reopen the youth centre – and it could be back in action as early as January.

The Manstone Lane hub is set to return for three nights a week after the town council pledged to revive the service ‘as soon as possible’.

Members agreed on Monday to dip into their reserves to kick-start it for the first three months, after which it will be funded by cash from the town council’s share of the council tax.

The council will then look to work with other groups to maximise the use of the building and cut its costs.

Town council chairman John Hollick said: “I am really very pleased the council has agreed to this proposal – it’s a sign of just how much the council values the young people of the valley.

“What is most important is that we get this up and running and the building open as soon as possible.

“It is an early Christmas present to our youngsters.”

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Devon County Council announced earlier this year that it needed to cut £970,000 from the youth service to help balance its books.

It was to close all 32 of its centres and focus the funding only on those in greatest need, which sparked outrage across the community from people who said other savings needed to be found.

Sidmouth’s centre was a lifeline for many youngsters, a place that played a preventative role, offering advice on everything from sex and drugs to bereavement and abuse – matters they could not share with anyone else.

Police reported a spike in crime after it shut in September, especially in the vicinity of the empty building.

The town council’s decision to reopen the centre was fast-tracked by a dedicated working group for youth provision.

It will keep operating to examine ways to develop the new service by consulting with youngsters, leaders, volunteers and organisations.

The council also hopes to include as many previous volunteers and workers as possible in the new service.

James McInnes, Devon County Council’s (DCC) cabinet member for the youth service, said: “I’m delighted that Sidmouth Town Council has taken such a strong community lead and worked closely with us to secure this transfer.

“DCC has limited resources and we’ve got to target our support on the most vulnerable young people. Sidmouth should be applauded for coming forward with a positive resolution to maintain this service for the young people.”