Youth service discussions ‘going nowhere’, frustrated councillor claims

Councillor Jan Cosgrove
Councillor Jan Cosgrove

A ‘frustrated’ councillor fears attempts to improve services for young people are ‘going nowhere’.

A motion by Orchard ward councillor Jan Cosgrove urging Bognor Town Council to take the lead on youth services was rejected on Monday.

Mr Cosgrove wanted to set up a working party with various authorities to improve provision, including consulting with young people on what they wanted.

But environment and leisure committee chairman Tony Gardiner instead pledged to chase West Sussex County Council (WSCC) on their future plans – a strategy Mr Cosgrove said was ‘going nowhere’.

“This was a joke discussion,” Mr Cosgrove said.

“People are clearly not in tune with what young people are going through. I feel frustrated.”

Mr Cosgrove pointed to a decline in available facilities in recent years, despite the re-opening of Number 18 Club.

He said WSCC, as statutory provider of youth services, now primarily focused on information, rather than leisure and recreation.

He called for the town council to take the lead and come up with a ‘gameplan’ by talking with other parishes, Arun District Council and county.

Mr Cosgrove’s idea to consult was praised by the council’s youngest councillor, Martin Smith.

But he questioned whether providing more youth clubs was the way forward.

He said: “Yes we do need youth clubs but I think they just want something to do. There is literally nothing for young people in Bognor to do.

“They go to Chichester for things like bowling. The cinema is probably only thing – but if they don’t have the money they have nowhere to go. Instead they cause riot.”

Marine ward councillor Dougal Maconachie said he was against all working groups as they created more work for staff and were a waste of time.

“I wish I could drum this into people’s brains,” he said.

Mr Gardiner said they needed to ‘talk to the people at the top before we talk to the people at the bottom’.

He said he had tried to contact the county council to resolve problems in re-opening 39 Club but had so far had no luck. He vowed to continue discussions, as well as pushing for answers about its wider youth service policy.

Mr Cosgrove’s motion – and the committee’s response – will be discussed at the next full council meeting.