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FISHBURN Youth and Community Centre has announced the closure of youth service, which has generated a range of comments. I wish to thank those residents who have taken the time to make the Parish Council aware of their views on this important issue. Community sites and social media can often be unreliable sources of information, so I hope this short statement helps to clarify the Council's position.

On 14th July 2016, Fishburn Parish Council acknowledged the importance of youth services in Fishburn, following Durham County Council’s withdrawal of funding for youth service provision, and authorised the payment of £10,000.00 to Fishburn Youth and Community Centre 'directly for youth provision'. Only £7,147.56 was paid because some activities were removed.

The Chair of Fishburn’s Youth & Community Centre’s Management Committee asked for an item to be placed on the agenda for the Parish Council to consider a proposal for the Parish Council to increase its precept (the amount of money it requires via Council Tax) by £11,688.00 per annum with effect from the financial year 2018/19 - for community services, namely community centre building maintenance; manager's salary; energy bills, not for youth service.

This meant the Community Centre would pick up the cost of the youth service to mitigate any concerns residents who do not have children might have about funding youth services. The management committee indicated that without any funding the youth service would not continue past September, so there was also a request for a pro-rata (proportional) grant up £6,611.04 to bridge the gap for the provision of a youth service until the next financial year.

The Community Centre benefitted from a £7,000.00 grant from Fishburn Parish Council and a further £9,000.00 grant from the then County Councillor Rachel Lumsdon to make the centre’s roof water tight to ensure security and longevity and other necessary repairs. Michael Parkin, Committee Chairman, said at that time: “We are still very shocked about the generosity of the councillors in agreeing to offer the grants of £16,000.00 towards the replacement and improvements to the centre’s roof. We are also extremely excited about being able to redecorate the hall which is crucial to securing future bookings”.

On Thursday 14th September 2017, parish councillors received a detailed presentation from the Treasurer of Fishburn Youth & Community Centre on the proposal. After careful consideration, it was unanimously resolved [agreed] that the Parish Council shall make no decision on the proposal to increase the precept by £11,688.00 per annum until setting its own budget and precept requirement for the 2018/19 financial year [usually in December/January]. After considering a report on anticipated income and expenditure in sufficient detail to enable the Council to form an opinion about its merits and risks, it was also resolved that the request for a grant up to £6,611.04 to bridge the gap for the provision of a youth service shall be refused. Parish councillors realise this decision may be disappointing for some residents but trust most people will understand that there were good reasons for safeguarding public money.

Members might decide to raise council tax payers' bills to ensure the Community Centre can remain on a viable and sustainable footing in the future, but the harsh reality is that the Parish Council has a duty first and foremost to consider what its own financial needs and statutory commitments will be. As well as maintaining current projects e.g. a Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA), and improving them, the Council wants to develop several future projects to improve the village, e.g. the three play areas which require attention, levelling up areas of the cemetery, as well as funding for drainage to the football pitches, and for creating a much-needed new football pavilion. There is also the continued possibility of the Government extending the capping controls to parish councils from 2018/19, often set at 2%.

Councillor Andrew Pearson

Chairman of Fishburn Parish Counci

18th September 2017

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