We are all in this together. Well unless you're young, old, infirm, disabled, unwell or perhaps a single parent, then you have to shoulder a little more because after all it was the greed of such groups that caused the mess the country is apparently in right now. Taking on that little extra hurts and it seems that government be it local or national is taking the lead sadistic role with pleasure but then that's what sadists do.
I've blogged before about inclusion and provision for young people and also a little about my utopian pipe dreams of how local life can be made a little better for all by concentrating resources in a positive and pointed way towards our young people. They are as the cliché goes, our future. Love 'em or loathe 'em it's the young people of today who are going to be taking care of us in the years to come, so you would think we would like to make sure that they get a good start, learn some decent values and have a little fun along the way in order to develop into the well rounded adults that we want caring for us old dodderers.
I learned my life skills from a variety of sources including in my teenage years, The Manor House Youth Club in Aldridge. I learned about mixing with others who didn't go to my school, didn't come from my estate, didn't share my religion, race or sexual orientation, or my taste in music or TV viewing. There were never any arguments about what channel the TV should be on when Charlie's Angels was on and I recall the collective experience, joyful though we were not Scousers, of seeing Liverpool beat Borussia Monchengladbach in 1977 but those times apart, selection of the right channel required careful bargaining and negotiating skills. This was true of getting on pool tables or table football or even selection of records on the old juke box in the coffee lounge. Oh what innocent times, well except Friday nights and the disco when it seemed to me that every teenager in Aldridge was indulging in a snogfest except me! Well I suppose even that has to be learned. The point is that The Manor provided a safe environment for me and all the other young people in the area, under the supervision of some pretty excellent Youth Leaders to be ourselves and to endure the pains, trials, tribulations and angst of the teenage years.
When I arrived back in Aldridge after a long exile in London I was pleased to discover that The Manor was still there and still functioning in pretty much the same way as it had when I was a spotty teenager albeit with a beautifully equipped music room and much better facilities in general than the 1970s. My son has spent many happy hours there, indeed he even did his Year 10 work experience there under the wonderful supervision of a very dedicated Youth Worker by the name of Matt Gough, sadly for the young people of Aldridge now working elsewhere. My daughter is now of an age when she can enjoy the delights of a vibrant youth centre. Unfortunately it looks as though the experience is to be ripped away from her in the name of budget deficit sadists.
Back on 6th April Walsall Council announced it plans to sell Aldridge Manor House. My immediate thought was what is going to happen to the youth provision? I spent the next couple of weeks tweeting @Walsall Council to no avail and so on 10th May I submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the council and asked 'Once the sale is agreed and goes ahead, will the Youth Club held at the Manor House be closed or will it be relocated to other premises in Aldridge?' The response was a very long time in arriving considering all it consisted of was one devastating sentence
'I can confirm that any decisions in the future relating to the Youth Club will be subject to consultation with all interested parties and will include efforts to relocate the service.'
So there we have it. There are to be consultations on the future of Aldridge Manor House Youth Service...when? Has the decision to withdraw youth provision in Aldridge already been made behind closed doors where the walls had no ears? And these 'efforts', what will they consist of? I've been racking my brains to try and come up with a set of suitable premises in Aldridge that could be converted (no doubt at some considerable cost thereby rendering such a plan non-viable in the financially penny pinching climate of the moment) for our young people and I cannot think of any. How concerted will such 'efforts' be or, forgive me for being cynical I've lived a while after all, is this it? The end of something so valuable for all our futures and all because some are more in it together than others?
Another cynical thought. Aldridge Manor House is a Grade 2 listed building. Who would want to buy such a building, standing as it does in the very heart of a conservation area in Aldridge with the sort of restrictions that such buildings bring with regard to usage? I fear the heat of the flames that will inevitably follow after years of neglect and dereliction. It appears after all to be a Borough Wide Sport here in Walsall, available to all as long as they have patience, money and a steadfast belief that local authorities and local communities are to be ignored at all costs
Will any of the six councillors for Aldridge North and South make a stand for the young people of Aldridge and pledge support for ensuring that youth provision for the area remains in place or will they continue to play follow the leader?