Unite the union announced that youth workers employed by Oxfordshire county council will begin a series of one day walkouts from Tuesday 23 August over job cuts and service closures.
The jobs of around 80 youth workers, who care for hundreds of vulnerable young people across the county, are at risk as the council pushes ahead with its re-structuring exercise. The cuts will hit the prime minister’s constituency of Witney where people as young as 12 years of age have been fighting to save their youth service.
Unite has said that the Conservative-led council’s decision to offload the running of its 26 youth centres and two detached youth teams exposes a local authority with scant regard for the needs of young people in the county warning that dismantling the top class youth service will push young people onto the streets.
Oxfordshire county council plans to slash youth service funding from £3.7 million to £1.4 million making the county the lowest contributor to youth services in all of England. Within the council’s overall budget of £800 million, the cut will save a miniscule 0.17 per cent, but the impact on the service and its recipients will be huge and very damaging.
Mike Beal, chair of the Unite community and youth worker sector Oxford, said: “Youth workers would much rather be doing their jobs but the council is turning its back on young people. They will take strike action with a very heavy heart but how else can they get an unthinking council to listen?
“Oxfordshire county council’s plans to dismantle its youth service are short-sighted. They will tear apart the youth service at the very time when it is needed most. I have spoken to a number of young people who all say that without their local youth club they would be hanging out on street corners. Youth clubs provide safe places for them to go.
“Across the county, young people have shown again and again that they are not as portrayed – as apathetic – and that they do want to contribute to Oxfordshire by fighting to save their services. By ignoring their pleas, this council risks confirming young people’s worst suspicions – that politicians are not interested in them.
“Oxfordshire county council is failing young people and failing its dedicated workforce of trained, professional youth workers.
“The youth service in Oxfordshire is top class. It is efficient and far more cost effective than picking up the pieces afterwards. The jobs we do make a difference to young lives. Oxfordshire county council must think again.”
Doug Nicholls, Unite national officer for the community, youth worker and not for profit sector said: “Youth workers in Oxfordshire will be taking this day of action with a heavy heart, but are determined to challenge the council’s short-sighted decision to dismantle its top class youth service.
“Many workers will be taking action for the first time. Our members work with some of the most marginalised young people in our society – those living in poverty, fighting loneliness and struggling to engage. The jobs they do make a difference to young lives.
“The prime minister had the audacity to speak from his so-called favourite youth club in Witney last week in the wake of the UK riots, but failed to defend the county’s dedicated team of youth workers.
“If Cameron had taken the time last week to listen to youth workers then he would hear why the great work being done in his constituency must not be lost. Youth clubs provide safe places for young people to go and are needed now more then ever.
“Young people have been given a very rough ride by this government and now Oxfordshire county council wants to slash its youth service budget when it already ranks a dismal 104th out of 118 local authorities for net expenditure on youth provision.
“This shows scant regard to the needs of young people in the county. Oxfordshire county council is sending a message to its young people that it does not care.”
Workers were balloted on the 18 July with the majority (14 to 1) voting in favour of strike action.
We urge you to show support on the day: Visit picket lines in Banbury
8 – 10am Samuelson House, Tramway Rd,
10.15am – 12pm Banbury Youth Centre, Hilton Rd,
12.15pm – 2pm rally Town Hall, Bridge St, Banbury.
Details of Unite coach from Oxford to follow …
Please invite others.