EXCLUSIVE: OzBox in Derbyshire to be axed

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A boxing fitness programme to help keep young people in Derbyshire out of trouble is to be axed in the new year, the Derbyshire Times has learned.

The OzBox scheme – which offers free sessions of non-contact boxing and fitness training to youngsters aged between 11 and 19 – will be scrapped on January 21.

OzBox has been running since 2003 as a partnership project funded jointly between Derbyshire Constabulary and Derbyshire County Council, supported by money from the Big Lottery Fund for the past three years.

However, police and council chiefs have decided to close the scheme due to the Big Lottery Fund money coming to an end next March.

A further bid for funding from the Big Lottery Fund had been made but was unsuccessful.

Derbyshire Constabulary and the county council are unable to fund the scheme because of their own budget cuts.

An online petition to save OzBox has now been set up – sign it HERE – and you can also visit a Facebook campaign page HERE.

Deputy Chief Constable Alan Goodwin said: “We are very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund and Derbyshire County Council for their support over the last three years.

“However, as their funding is coming to an end, the cost of financing the scheme would fall wholly to the Derbyshire Constabulary, which is simply not sustainable, given the unprecedented financial challenges we face.

“The reality of the situation is that we have to make £26million worth of savings over the next five years, on top of the millions we have had to save over previous years.

“It will mean a reduction in the region of 260 police officers and 150 police staff – and now more than ever we have to prioritise core policing across the county.

“Unfortunately, we are forced to make difficult decisions and in this case we simply cannot continue to fund the scheme.

“An inventory of the equipment, vehicles and other assets currently used by OzBox is now being drawn up, pending a decision on what to do with it.

“In order to bring about a controlled wind down of the scheme, it is intended that no further sessions will be held after January 21 so that all outstanding issues can be concluded by the time the money finally runs out in March.”

Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles: “This is a stark reminder of the consequences of the Government funding cuts.”

Councillor Kevin Gillott, the county council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The three-year grant we agreed is coming to an end and our financial situation is poor – like that of our police colleagues.

“We’re facing devastating cuts of £157m to our budget by 2018.

“We’ll continue to work with county youngsters to guide them to our other services and make sure they still get opportunities to develop skills and take part in activities.”

OzBox was set up by Steve Osbaldeston, a police officer, to encourage young people to keep fit and lead healthy lifestyles to help stop them getting involved in anti-social behaviour and crime.

The scheme was so successful that OzBox sessions were extended across the county.

OzBox is delivered by more than 300 trained volunteers including police officers, PCSOs, youth workers, students, firefighters and members of the public.

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