Thousands of Sunderland youngsters fight youth service funding axe

Around 3,000 young people have signed a petition urging council bosses not to axe youth service funding across Sunderland.

Wednesday, 25th January 2017, 9:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th January 2017, 10:12 pm
Josh Potter hands the petition to Coun Phil Tye

Youth groups fear the city council may pull funding at the end of the financial year in March, as bosses try to cope with massive budget cuts.

Fifteen-year-old Josh Potter, from the Youth Almighty project handed the petition to Coun Phil Tye, himself a youth leader in the city, who passed it on to council leader Coun Paul Watson at tonight's meeting of the full council.

Brad Ferguson and Josh Potter, from Youth Almighty

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And Coun Watson promised the authority would do everything it could to find funding.

"We need to scour every nook and cranny and strain every sinew to keep this going,” he said.

"I am immensely proud of our young people, for knowing this is the proper way to do things."

The youth service cash was not the only service funding on the agenda, with the future of support for Sunderland’s domestic violence service also discussed.

Youth leaders Cassandra O'Neill, from Pennywell Youth Project; Ruth Oxley, from Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project; Sharon Semley, from A690 Youth Initiative; Steve Rylance from the Blue Watch Youth Centre, and Joanne Laverick, from Youth Almighty

The Echo reported in November that the future of Wearside Women in Need was in doubt amid fears it could lose cash from June.

Asked to guarantee the city would continue to have a support service, Portfolio holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services Coun Graeme Miller accused the media of spreading’ fake news’.

"There will be provision to tackle domestic violence in the city going forward," he said.

"I am going to say it again - there will be provision to tackle domestic violence in the city.

Brad Ferguson and Josh Potter, from Youth Almighty

"The ultimate aims of our future approach will be to reduce the number of women and children living with abuse and the long-terms costs associated with abuse."

Liberal Democrat members Coun Niall Hodson and Coun Stephen O’Brien raised the issue of councillors’ allowances.

Coun Hodson said the number of members receiving special responsibility allowance was now 80%.

"There is a danger the council leaves itself open to allegations of cronyism when so many councillors receive allowances,” he said, while Coun O’Brien branded paying subsistence allowances for meetings at which food was provided a ‘disgrace.’

Youth leaders Cassandra O'Neill, from Pennywell Youth Project; Ruth Oxley, from Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project; Sharon Semley, from A690 Youth Initiative; Steve Rylance from the Blue Watch Youth Centre, and Joanne Laverick, from Youth Almighty

But Coun Watson said allowances made up for the time and career opportunities councillors sacrificed: “ It is not remuneration,” he said.

Coun Hodson was reprimanded under the council’s standing orders for failing to address Mayor Coun Alan Emerson correctly.

There was a cry of "Let him talk, we voted for him" from the public gallery.