Let's treat our youth groups and service providers equally!
At last nights Bridgwater Town Council meeting we received a "Grant request from Engine Room for a grant of £1,885 to assist with workshops in the summer holidays for young people aged 6 to 18 to help them explore climate change and environmental issues (to be taken from youth budget)". The proposal was presented by Deb Richardson and what a great proposal it was! In fact I and the council unanimously agreed that it was a worthwhile project and should certainly go ahead! The issue for me however was not the project itself, but where the funds were to come from. Let me explain...
Not long ago the Town Council was promoting the idea of giving young people a say in the future of our town, giving young people a meaningful say in the projects that they would be taking part in. In fact at the Youth Council meeting on 7th December 2018, the leader of Bridgwater Town Council "reported that Bridgwater Town Council would be prepared to authorise the Youth Council to receive, discuss and determine next years Youth Grant allocations based on applications received" and the youth council voted to accept this proposal. I obviously argued this point at the Town Council meeting last night as I have complete trust in the ability of our young people to have a meaningful input and decide on what projects are best for them. I also pointed that the council would effectively be taking away almost 20% of the youth budget from the young people without their input. (The youth grant budget has been set at £10,000) But at last nights meeting the Town Council backtracked and that opportunity was sadly taken away from them.
For the past two years Bridgwater Town Council have run the youth grant system by following a set of criteria. This particular grant didn't fit into a couple of these which were:
1. The amount of grant per applicant is not to exceed £500
The problem here is that other great youth organisations that have applied for money, such as the Rollercoaster in Sydenham, have had to abide by these criteria and have had to limit the amount of money they can apply for to £500. We have in the past rejected applications that have asked for more than £500. If one organisation can apply for nearly £2k why couldn't all the others? It sets a precedent, and is unfair on the other organisations that have followed by the rules that the council set out previously.
2. The target age range is agreed at 11-18
The target age range also doesn't completely fit in, and my concern is that we have in the past rejected an application from Bridgwater & Albion Rugby Youth Club because it didn't fit the target age range. Again, it sets a precedent and is unfair on on the applications that we have rejected in the past because of not fitting this criteria.
Also, every year the council officially opens up the application process and invites youth service providers to apply for grant funding, but the application process isn't yet open and so really we shouldn't be accepting applications for these youth grants.
My suggestion was that we could go ahead with funding the great programme that the engine room were planning to put on, but that based on the information above, the funds would come from a different source, as the Town Clerk had suggested to me previously was possible.
Let's be fair with our applications, let's stick to the promises we make to our young people and lets treat our youth groups and service providers equally!
As anyone who knows me will know I have flown the flag for our young people during my time as a councillor. I have actively reached out to our young people visiting schools, youth clubs, colleges and through social media, pushed for more funding for youth services by increasing the youth budget and campaigning to continue funding our youth clubs, pushed to give young people a bigger say in their future by firstly setting up a youth forum and then creating and facilitating Bridgwaters FIRST Youth Council. During my term as Mayor of Bridgwater I chose to raise money for youth provision in the town and then ensuring our young people were recognised and rewarded for their fantastic achievements by holding the FIRST ever Bridgwater Youth Awards.
For anyone to suggest that I have turned my back on young people by not voting for the proposal would be untrue.
There will be a Youth meeting on Tuesday 6th August where councillors will discuss how to move forward with our Youth Fund and Youth agenda and I’m sure we will agree a fair way of moving forward. A Youth Council meeting is also provisionally set for the end of September to bring our young people together after the Summer holidays. (There was one youth council meeting which I chose to cancel as it was inconveniently set during exam season and I truly believe that education should be put at the top of the needs for our young people)