27 June 2013

Begging at the Gates of The Manor

Two weeks ago today a hastily convened public meeting was held at Aldridge Manor House Youth Centre to discuss the future of youth services in Aldridge following the equally hasty announcement that such provision was in the future, to be made from the back of vans or unused shops. By the end of what was an uncomfortable meeting for the Councillors and Officers present, it was agreed that a further public meeting would be held in the near future, that the meeting would be given wider and better publicity than the one that had taken place and that the minutes of the meeting would be made available to the community.

It saddens and angers me that at the time of writing no further meeting has yet been arranged and minutes have not been published. What has been published is this. A question and answer and action log. Posted on the web site today. It's taken a while!

The log is unfortunately not an accurate reflection of what happened at the meeting nor of the questions asked. Without going into an overlong analysis I'll just give two examples. Question 16. There was a question of this nature but the senior member of the community that asked the question was pointing out the loss of facilities to local elderly people who had used the offices formerly based at the side of the Manor House and now demolished, for internet use and other group meetings and those facilities had never been replaced. The point the questioner was making was that facilities had already been lost and had not been replaced. There were no questions about anti-social behaviour, just statements of concern.

Question 20 was never asked. What is behind this inclusion as a question is the proposal of Councillor Rochelle to give the local parish church several hundred thousand pounds to make up the current shortfall in the fund to build new church rooms. We should remember that when the new church rooms are built, the current rectory will be demolished, land sold and there is planning permission for several houses to be built on the land surrounding the current house. Work will be starting within the next month. Coincidence I'm sure!

The log does not reflect in any way the contributions made by two young people at the meeting who apparently had had their views ignored in previous consultation with the users of the Manor House. Seems that their views are still being ignored.

I may be wrong, or it could be because it was difficult to hear speakers at certain times during the meeting but I do not recall that at any time during the meeting  it was said that there would be centre based youth provision in Aldridge. The statement regarding a permanent base came later when Councillor A Andrew and I discussed the subject on BBC WM.

So the 'log' is not be trusted.

Since the meeting I have tweeted @WalsallCouncil on four separate days asking when the date will be fixed.

  • On 17 June they were 'discussing the date now'
  • On 21 June there is 'a meeting today' to discuss a date
  • On 25 June the date will be 'fixed in the next few days'
  • Today, 27 June 'still sorting out a date' 
This meeting is not for fixing thus far and one has to ask why? A little clue is contained within the log on the penultimate page under unanswered question from  meeting. No impact assessment on the impact of the closure of youth services at The Manor House has been carried out! Surely not! This explains why the first public meeting was arranged completely out of the blue and so hastily. Naughty Walsall Council may have been breaking the rules regarding public consultation and impact assessments and now they've been caught out, they're dragging the suddenly extended so called consultation period out, hoping that we'll forget the historic building in our midst and the youth club run from it.

I was surprised to discover at the meeting that apparently the Youth Club is promoted in local schools. Little of what goes on passes my daughter by so I asked her about this and she reported that she had never seen publicity for the youth club at school. I've never seen any publicity for the Manor House and regular week day youth provision (as opposed to holiday provision) in Aldridge and this leads me to something I said during the meeting. It seems to me that this youth club has been allowed to gradually decline, quite deliberately in order that it could be closed due to lack of interest. The reduction in the numbers of young people using the facility, not from the heydays of the 1970s and 1980s but in more recent years has been kept quiet. If they don't know it's there then how can they come and if they don't come, how can they miss it when it's gone?

Something smells fishy but the pond in front of the Manor House was filled in years ago......


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