16,000 back petition to save youth centres

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A PLANNED shake-up of Derbyshire’s youth service is set to be debated tomorrow, after 16,000 people signed a petition against the proposals.

The Conservative-led county council is proposing to close 29 youth centres and dispose of its mobile youth units with the loss of up to 157 jobs - and instead to provide grants for community and voluntary groups to provide youth services.

The protesters are backed by the council’s main Labour opposition group.

Its leader, Coun Anne Western, who represents Clowne and Barlborough, said: “The petition has topped 16,000 signatures which has triggered a debate in council tomorrow afternoon.

“This is the first time a petition has triggered the debate process. The petition target was 7,500 signatures and it has more than doubled this figure, such is the level of public concern.”

A protest rally will also be held before the meeting, at County Hall, Matlock, from 12.30pm.

Coun Barry Lewis, cabinet member for young people, said youth clubs were used by just 28 per cent of 13 to 19-year-olds. He said: “It’s time we properly supported Derbyshire’s main providers of youth activities - voluntary and community groups.”