The cost of having a youth hub in Haverhill look set to spiral by more than 50 per cent of what was originally planned.
Umbrella project ONE Haverhill has been working with Haverhill Town Council to fulfil its long standing goal of improving youth prospects in the town, and to that end the council has sought to refurbish the old magistrates’ court in Camps Road to be used as a youth hub.
Haverhill Town Council will have to initially lease the building from owners Suffolk County Council with a view to potentially buying it, with anger driven at the county authority for not gifting the town the building as it did with giving the Chalkstone Middle School site to Care UK for the new Cleve’s Court care home.
The costs of refurbishing the magistrates’ court were originally stated as £150,000, but a recent finance committee meeting showed those costs to have now risen to £220,000 – before running costs are added.
One concerned Haverhill resident said: “This is on a building the town does not even own and so any repairs are for the benefit of the county council, but the costs are borne by Haverhill residents.
“I have asked for documents including business plans, risk assessments and budgets to be made available, but they have yet to be provided.
“Nobody seems to know how many youth will want to use the hub and I understand both senior schools already provide such facilities.
“It seems the Haverhill taxpayer is subsidising this to at least £20 per household in this tax year alone through council tax only a month after the precept was raised because of a shortfall in funding because of the cutback in the grant made via the borough council from central Government.
“I have suggested abandoning the idea of using that building in favour of Bevan House (the former Red Cross centre, which the town council owns), but I bet things have gone too far to pull out.
“The town council appear to have effectively been told by ONE Haverhill to get on with it.”
Sarah Howard, Chairman of ONE Haverhill, said: “As a partnership we are committed to providing a one stop shop service to support our young people in Haverhill as part of the town’s community budget. It is what residents told us they wanted when consulted in the summer of 2012 and its services are what the young people want and need in Haverhill as evidenced by our recent youth survey carried out by our Youth Skills Manager.
“As part of the community budget and this project, the Town Council proposed to provide a place in which to operate this service and they are currently in ongoing negotiations with Suffolk County Council. We have not told the Town Council to do anything. This project is as a result of working together to provide a service for our young people and generations to come.”
A spokesman for the town council said: “Suffolk County Council withdrew its general youth support services and closed Haverhill’s purpose built youth facility (the Burton Centre) by 2012.
“Meanwhile, ONE Haverhill’s ‘community budget’ exercise, in which a large sample of Haverhill’s residents were asked to define their top issues of concern, pointed to the provision of youth services as a most pressing concern for local people.
“This was in spite of the decision by the county council to make youth services part of their budget cuts.
“The exercise also found that the existence of youth services created considerable savings to the local community in terms of policing, employment and the local environment.
“The town council is made up of local people who try hard to reflect local concerns when providing services for Haverhill.
“Therefore Haverhill Town Council reached a decision, in conjunction with ONE Haverhill, to try to continue and extend the provision of youth services for Haverhill.
“Various accommodation options, including use of Bevan House, were examined against the need for a central location with sufficient capacity.
“At this time sensitive negotiations are currently in hand with Suffolk County Council to acquire the former magistrates’ court building which can be adapted for use as a youth hub by ONE Haverhill.
“The town council has put aside from its reserves a sufficient contingency to refurbish the building for its new purpose.
“The outcome of these negotiations will be published at the earliest possible time.”
For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, April 24) Echo.