Back Barcode - campaign launch
A LEADING councillor has launched a campaign so members of the public can show their support for Weston's youth cafe. Cllr Mike Bell is appealing for
A LEADING councillor has launched a campaign so members of the public can show their support for Weston's youth cafe.Cllr Mike Bell is appealing for people to support the Back Barcode campaign by signing a petition calling for the under 18s venue to stay open.The petition reads: We the undersigned support the campaign to keep Barcode open and it is great value at just £2 per year.Cllr Bell, who at the age of 33 is one of the town's youngest councillors, said: "I grew up in Weston and know the need in the town to have somewhere like Barcode for young people to go."Over 20,000 kids have passed through the youth cafe 's doors. We'd be lucky to get that many in The Blakehay or even to turn out and vote."For people to criticise it for not having enough youngsters using it is totally absurd."We should be shouting about Barcode as one the town council's biggest success stories, not picking holes."To even consider closing it is criminal and those people who are using it purely for political reasons should be ashamed of themselves."They are a waste of money, not Barcode."People can sign up to Back Barcode at www.backbarcode.co.uk or at the youth cafe in South Parade. They can also text 'BARCODE' and a message of support along with their name to 07766 404142. The best messages will be posted on the Back Barcode website.Cllr Bell has also placed a book in Barcode asking the youngsters who use it to write down their reasons for supporting it.Cllr Bell added: "This is about the future of our children. We need to let them have a say and not make key decisions behind closed doors without any input from those that it affects."WHAT YOUR COUNCILLORS THINKTHE Weston & Somerset Mercury asked Weston Town Council members: Do you think that £2 a year is too much for each household in Weston to pay to keep Barcode open?Their responses were as follows:* YES, IT IS TOO MUCH: * Cllr John Ley-Morgan (Con):"I think it's quite a high cost for the number of children who use it. We are suffering a considerable loss this year and we don't have the money in reserves. We're going to be struggling to make up that loss. I support Barcode to the hilt, but I just feel the money it's costing is too much. It's too expensive. "* Cllr Ian Parker (Lab):"A recent survey showed 70 per cent of the attendees of Barcode are from my ward and it is definitely a flagship enterprise. But on the basis of £2 a year from taxpayers I would have to say no, it's not worth it."* Cllr June Parker (Lab):Shares the same views as her husband.* Cllr Roger Perks (Con):"I have been out of local affairs for some time due to illness. I think the concept of Barcode is a good one, but we have to look at cost. I think the use of the money would be better spread across the town."* Cllr Ian Porter (Con):"Nobody is opposed to Barcode. We have to use common sense, look at all the options and see who can offer the best deal. You would have to ask members of the public if they think £2 a year is viable, but I do think we should look at other venues."* Cllr Clive Webb (Con): " It has not made money and I am concerned. I was against it from the start. We could move it to The Blakehay. I would have to say no, it's not worth it."* Cllr Andy Wright (Lib): "My instincts tell me it is too much money so I would say yes, it is too much. I do not think a proper business plan was put in place at the outset and there was no long-term view. It had good intentions, but David Evans just wanted to railroad the whole idea of Barcode through."* Cllr Jocelyn Holder (Con):"I think the concept is very good, it's important for the children to have somewhere to go. But it does seem a lot of money and I think it is too expensive."I think we need to look at the terms of the rent and the possibility of moving it because it would be a shame to ruin a venue for the children. I think all avenues have to be looked into before a decision is made."* NO, IT'S NOT TOO MUCH MONEY: * Cllr Robert Payne (Lib): "It is an excellent facility and the police have reported a drop in antisocial behaviour since it opened. It is a very worthwhile facility and good facilities have to be paid for. I think it is worth it."* Cllr Diane Parslow (Lib): "I think it should remain where it is. Personally I do not think £2 is too much."* Cllr Roz Willis (Con):"I think we need to re-negotiate the lease. There will always be a Barcode, whether it stays in its current location or not. It is a lot of money to those on a limited budget, but for me it would be an acceptable amount."* Cllr Andrew Horler (Con): (Chairman of Barcode)"Obviously Barcode is an expense to the town council and the town as a whole, in the same way lots of things which provide a social service cost money. I'm delighted, however, to say that in real terms Barcode offers far in excess of its cost. It's a shining light nationally of an excellent youth facility that gives children a place to go and provides a non-alcoholic, smoke-free environment that's an alternative to hanging about on park benches and street corners. If a lot of people are worried about the cost of such a facility should we be restricting other services that don't make a profit? Councils are there to provide services that are needed by the people and Barcode is a facility which is needed by young people." * Cllr Astra Brand (Lib):"I don't think it's too expensive. I think it does a good job as far as it goes. It's not for all of our youngsters but it's for a good two thirds of them. It's excellent and has even been mentioned in Parliament. The trouble is I don't think there's another building. At the time that was the only building available and nowhere else has come up. At the moment it's central and a lot of people can use it."* Cllr David Evans (Lib):"I wouldn't care if it cost £25 per household, it's a facility that should be provided for young people. We had the guts to go ahead with it and it should be supported by everyone in Weston. "It shouldn't be moved because it's on neutral territory. For example, if it's moved to the Bournville estate the children from Milton won't use it. It's in the town centre so everyone can use it and it's what the children wanted."* Cllr Colin Golland (Lib):"It's not too expensive, it's a good facility for the youth of the town. I don't think it should be moved because it's in quite a central location. We might need similar facilities for children in other areas, such as Worle, because it's quite a long way for them to travel, and we're looking into that."* Cllr Mike Bell (Lib):"It's not too expensive, it's only £2 a year which I think is next to nothing when you compare it to the cost of most public services. Everything costs money. You have to ask yourself if £2 a year to provide something to do for children is worthwhile and I think it is."I was sceptical about the location at first but it's proved to be a fantastic success, right in the heart of the town centre."* Cllr Derek Kraft (Lab):"It's not too expensive. The cost depends on usage and it's still early days for it. It's a good facility which keeps the youth off the streets and I'm all in favour of it. It's great that it's near the college because it's a good alternative to the pubs."I'm not sure whether it should move. It's convenient for the town council where it is because it's near the Blakehay and Grove House." * Cllr Charles Heard (Con):"I think it's absolutely brilliant. I think it's expensive but it's a very useful place for young people. It's a good investment because it keeps the youngsters off the streets. It can only get better. The figures are looking better every year."I think we should look into the possibility of it moving. Whether it moves to the Blakehay and costs money or stays where it is, I think it's money well spent."* Cllr Brian Hampson (Lib):"There aren't many facilities provided which keep young people off the streets and keeps them occupied so I think it's worth the £2."The building was made available to the town council through the generosity of business people in Weston and I think the council took the opportunity to provide a facility it thought was necessary. I see no reason why it should be moved. It's in the town centre and there are bus services to the venue."* Cllr Michael Kellaway-Mariott (Con):"For the facilities it provides it seems to be a reasonable cost. I think if a young person was assaulted, raped or murdered the cost would be much higher, not to mention the cost to the family. I think we are doing a good job and bringing young people together in a safe place. I think it should stay where it is."l Cllr Mark Canniford (Lib):"If you take into account the amount of children using Barcode, £2 per year is a fraction. The reality is that we've got groups of people who continually complain about children being on street corners, gathering in gangs and hanging around and that's because there's nothing for them to do. We provide a facility, which gives them somewhere to go. We could perhaps try to negotiate a reduction in rent but ultimately the facility we provide should continue to be provided."I think it should stay where it is because it's in the middle of town. If it is split up it would lose its impact and you wouldn't get as many people going to it." * Cllr Jenny Gosden (Lib):"No it's not too expensive. We provide other things like play areas, dog bins and facilities for the elderly and I really don't think we should consider it too much to spend on young people. We need a facility and people who have come from all over the world think it's absolutely fantastic. We should be proud of what we have."I think its location is ideal. It's fairly high profile and safe for youngsters." * Cllr Paula Howell (Lib):"I'm strongly in favour of Barcode. I think it's a very good facility for our young people and not too expensive. We are looking at grants but I think it's something we've really got to look at preserving because it's doing a really good job."I don't think it should be split up and put in different places. I think if somewhere else was found, we could consider it, but it would have to be in a central location and suitable for the young people. I think it works well where it is."* Cllr Joan Dunne (Lib):"I'm very keen on anything that involves young people. When I was growing up there were lots of cafes but there's nothing left for youngsters now. This is all they've got and it's in an organised and supervised venue rather than hanging around on the streets. It's good value and it's desperately needed. It's a wonderful service."It would be impossible to find another building that's so central. It's in a great place as it's in the town centre and away from residential areas. I don't think it should be moved." * Cllr Keith Morris (Con):"It's not expensive. It should be included in the budget but it's not. It's doing well and getting not just a national, but an international reputation."I'm open minded about it moving. It's something which we are going to talk through and see what the best options are. But most importantly, we've got to have the income through the precept, sponsorship, and the lottery, so we can keep it going." * Cllr Richard Tucker (Lab)"I have been impressed with the work done at Barcode so far. Generally speaking it is social benefit against financial, but I think it is worth it."I have been for Barcode from the start and I am not going to back away from it now."* THOSE WHO SAT ON THE FENCE: * Cllr Mari Owens (Lab):"No comment." When asked why, Cllr Owens hung up the phone.* Cllr David Roxburgh (Lab):"I have been out of the council affairs for some time due to family illness so I am unable to comment."* Cllr Ian Baker (Lib):"No comment."* Cllr Sally Tabrett (Lib):Unavailable for comment.* Cllr Tim Taylor (Lab):Unavailable for comment.COUNCILLOR CALLS FOR DEBATETHE debate over the future of Barcode follows a Weston Town Council meeting in which Councillor John Ley-Morgan requested decisions about the youth cafe be brought forward.Following his call it has since been decided that an emergency meeting, which will be closed to the press and public, will be held on Tuesday at Grove House. Items on the agenda include methods of increasing Barcode's income, cutting its costs, potential sponsorship, alternative venues and whether to renew the lease.Cllr Ley-Morgan said: "The Conservatives put forward an alternative budget at previous meetings but one by one our proposals were dismissed. The only concession we won was an increase in the amount of money put into the authorities reserves from £25,000 to £40,000. The clerk had previously advised councillors that reserves should ideally be around £180,000. At present they are £79,000."At last week's meeting, the Liberal Democrats introduced their budget and immediately announced the amount to go into the reserves would be reduced to the original £25,000. The Conservatives considered this a huge mistake and wilful neglect of councillors' responsibility to run the council on a sound financial basis."We are well aware that two flagship projects are losing significant amounts of money (Barcode and the Blakehay) despite the enormous amount of work put in and support given. These projects are going to make huge demands on the council's reserves and this was why we voted against the budget."It was certainly not 'childish politics' as described in the editorial in last week's Mercury. I believe the vast majority of ratepayers would expect us to be watchful and responsible."I have also been criticised for calling Barcode a waste of money. I do not hold such a view and have never made such a statement. I consider the concept to be a great success, but it is currently losing over £100,000 per year and we cannot afford to let this situation continue. "The council must base Barcode's budget on achievable income and factoring in hoped-for sponsorship is a recipe for financial ruin as it is never guaranteed and seldom long-term."Councillor Mike Bell represents the success of Barcode by the fact that '20,000 kids have gone through its doors so far'. But this is the number of visits and could be obtained by 200 children visiting the venue twice a week for a year. "Yes, I am arguing that perhaps the venue is wrong and perhaps we should be looking to export the principle to other parts of town so more young people can enjoy it, or we should try to renegotiate the lease before we have to commit ourselves for a considerable number of years."If we are to continue supporting Barcode to the level we are, it would be better to buy a place for the same annual outlay."''SAVE OUR YOUTH CAFE'...CONCERNED youths have been voicing their concerns on the possible closure or move of Barcode.The Weston & Somerset Mercury spoke to some of the young people to find out how they felt about the potential loss of the youth cafe. The responses were:* Youth Council press officer, Cameron Deames, aged 12:"It is a shame Barcode is under threat of closing. The Youth Council worked so hard to get the venue for Weston."We are tomorrow's adults of Weston and our views should be taken into consideration."* Youth Council member, Chris Wood, aged 15:"Why would anyone want to shut this place? I would be extremely upset if we had to close or move. It is stupid to even think about it. I think the council needs to think long and hard before making a decision that will affect our future. People have worked too hard on this for it to stop now. "* Youth Council treasurer, Sam Share, aged 15:"To even consider closing Barcode is undermining the Youth Council and what we have all worked so hard to achieve. It's a fantastic place to hang out with friends and it has easy access by public transport no matter where you live because it is so central. I don't know if the town council knows what it is doing. Where else are we supposed to go?"POLICE PRAISE FOR TOWN'S 'VALUABLE ASSET'THE police sector inspector for Weston, Yan Georgiou, has called Barcode a 'valuable asset to the youth and the community'.Insp Georgiou said: "We do not get the volume of youth-related problems we used to experience in town, since it opened."It gives youngsters an opportunity to meet and a focal point for their activities, rather than having them just roaming the streets."I would never suggest that Barcode should be moved or closed as it is well run and a valuable asset to the youth and the community."The community police sergeant for the town centre, Pete Land, said that he would be 'very disappointed' if Barcode closed.Sgt Land said: "It is a shame that a place that is so well attended and has had such a positive impact on the behaviour of youngsters is under the threat of closure."I would be very disappointed to see it close because as far as I am concerned every aspect of Barcode has been positive. It is well run, managed, attended and respected and gives young people a safe and secure environment to go to.