Cash penalty sparks Barcode Tory U-turn

THE fate of Weston's popular youth cafe, Barcode, remains in the balance with youngsters who use the venue appealing to councillors to secure its long term future

THE fate of Weston's popular youth cafe, Barcode, remains in the balance with youngsters who use the venue appealing to councillors to secure its long term future. The pleas come after some councillors raised concerns the cafe in South Parade, which has attracted over 20,000 teenagers since opening in 2005, was costing too much to run.Members of Weston Town Council will vote for one of three options at a meeting on March 13.The first of these, put forward by Conservative members of the town council last week, was to negotiate with the building's owners to have a break clause in the contract this time next year, and in the meantime look at other locations such as The Blakehay.However, this idea now appears to have been dropped after a sharp U-turn by the Tories who have discovered it would cost the taxpayer over £70,000.Councillor Keith Morris said: "If we took up a break clause next year we would lose a five month rent-free period and suffer a penalty of £55,000 so this is no longer a goer."* The second alternative is to sign the lease committing for a further eight years. * Thirdly, councillors could vote to end the contract on Barcode and close the cafe.On Saturday (Feb 10), Weston Youth Council voted unanimously to safeguard the venue's future at its present location by signing up to the lease for a further eight years. The vote came after an emotionally charged meeting which saw Barcode's young users criticising councillors for suggesting they had been manipulated into campaigning to save the cafe.Youth councillor Hannah Gibney said: "One of the youth council's first objectives when it was formed was to work towards setting up a safe, cafe-style place where youngsters could hang out. "We cannot believe the audacity of some councillors to imply we have been manipulated in any way. We will fight to save what we fought to create. "Has the councillor who started questioning the future of Barcode has ever been in the cafe or spoken to any young people?"Cllr Roz Willis said: "My godchildren use Barcode and I am completely behind it, but we have to think about the electorate's money and some of them might not want the extra money on their tax bills."But Hannah Gibney replied: "But as I understand it you represent the electorate, so if you support it what is the problem? This place isn't just about helping kids now, but about changing the culture so when they grow up they are less likely to have trouble in bars or in the town centre at night."Cllr Mike Bell, who has launched a petition supporting the venue, said: "Barcode costs each council taxpayer just £2 per year. Now we know what needs to be done. At the town council meeting in March it'll be time for people to stand up and be counted. Councillors must get up out of their comfy chairs and vote to extend the lease and secure Barcode's future."If town councillors vote to close the cafe it will be forced to shut its doors in October.

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