Planned Council Cuts To Be Reviewed

Proposals will hit services to children in Merton

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Proposed cuts to services for young people in Merton will be reviewed before the council makes its final decision on its cost-saving budget for 2012-13.

Councillors on the Children and Young People's Scrutiny Panel said a number of proposals being made as part of plans to save £44m during the next three years should be rejected.

Among those proposals were:

-        Closure of Morden's Wyvern Youth Club
-        A £500,000 proposed reduction to early intervention and prevention for vulnerable youngsters and those at high risk of offending
-        Cuts to activities for young people during the holidays
-        Cuts to the School Admissions Department
-        Cuts to support for young people leaving care.

The call to recommend rejection of the plans was led by Conservative councillors, backed by Councillor Karin Forbes (Merton Park Ward Independent).

Councillor Richard Hilton, Conservative education spokesman, said: "To propose such deep and unnecessary cuts to services aimed at keeping young people spending their time fruitfully just six months after the summer riots is dangerously short sighted. Likewise with the cuts to school admissions when the borough is in the middle of a primary school places crisis.

"The minority Labour administration have chosen to make these cynical cuts to frontline services, while they ignore money left idle, including the £5.5m budget under spend forecast for this year, and while there are still identified back office savings to take."

Councillor Forbes said: "A few years ago I chaired a review into gang culture in Merton and one of the key findings was that we needed to provide places for young people to go and things for them to do to help prevent them getting caught up in gangs, so I don't want to see these services being cut."

Lib Dem councillor Iain Dysart has also spoken out against the proposed cuts, arguing that "our young people's present and future development must be safeguarded".

He said: "Whilst we know that cuts are inevitable with difficult choices necessary, short term savings with longer term financial and social costs must be resisted".

He specifically highlighted the dangers posed by reducing the number of schools admissions officers, given the demand for primary and secondary school places; the reduction of funding for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, which helps to give young people skills and confidence for the future; and reducing the social work support for adoptive families, especially given after recent figures revealed Merton was languishing in adoption tables.

The cuts they recommended for rejection will now be reviewed by the council's Overview and Scrutiny Commission on February 7, before the Cabinet gives full approval to the budget.

January 24, 2012