Bail out for youth fees?

Honiton Town Council could be piloting a new scheme to ensure sessions at the youth centre remain free.

Young people in Honiton could be given a helping hand - by the town council.

Cash from the town council’s coffers could be used to ensure sessions at the town’s youth centre remain free when charges are introduced in January.

The council’s policy and finance committee, at meeting on Monday night, agreed to trial a scheme to cover the 30p each entry fee for three months.

The scheme would then be reviewed.

Councillors could then move �8,800, which has been set aside to compensate local groups affected by budget cuts, into reserves so it is available - if the scheme is given the green light to continue for a further period of time.

However, some councillors have expressed concerns that the authority could be setting itself up to pay for Devon County Council responsibilities in the future.

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Councillor David Foster, who proposed funding entry fees for three years, said: “This is an important service that the town has. It is run really well and does some fantastic work.

“Any affect on that work is a worry - not just for young people but for the town as whole.

“We do look after the Senior Citizens’ Centre; it is only fair to support the other end of the spectrum.”

Honiton Youth Centre is run by Devon County Council and opens on Tuesday and Thursday nights and provides some after school provision.

It plans to introduce a charge of 30p per session from January 2012, rising to 50p per session in April 2012 - to raise an estimated �1,000 to �2,000 per year.

Councillor Sharon Pavey added: “It is a tricky one but, if we don’t do this, they (DCC) are going to start charging and it is going to affect those who can’t afford it.

She added: “The charges are increasing to 30p up to 50p in no time who’s to say it’s not going to be a pound this time next year.”

Councillor Nick Cornwell said: “I need to play devil’s advocate. This is a tricky one and we’re getting into a new area – signalling to the principle authority that we will come in and save them.”

He questioned the effect the charges would have and the numbers who would be deterred as a result.

Councillor Vivienne Ash said: “It would be a shame if we can’t find some way of paying for those who can’t.

“I worry they are opening the flood gates and we will have to fund things the county can’t fund.”

The council has been told that the youth centre, in February, had 400 registered members, aged 12 to 18.

Council Mike Allen added: “We are happy to pay �4,000 for flower beds. I think we are missing the point some how.”

Councillor Elizabeth Tirard said by support the youth centre the council could be seen as trail blazers on how to help young people, but the youth centre should look into funding its own activities in other ways and “take charge of their own destiny”.

It had been suggested that the council subsidise the entrance fee for three years.

However, councillors felt this could prove problematic if the council committed itself to this.

Councillor Cornwell added: “We will trial it from January to March then review it. It is not a cash cow then and we still have control.”

Honiton Town Council can only go ahead if it can reach an agreement with the county council and the proposal is ratified.

What do you think? Should Honiton Town Council pay entry fees for Honiton Youth Centre? Email with your comments.