Mercury helps save Barcode
WESTON'S nationally acclaimed youth cafe has been saved from the brink of closure thanks to the combined efforts of the town's young people
WESTON'S nationally acclaimed youth cafe has been saved from the brink of closure thanks to the combined efforts of the town's young people, Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors and the Weston & Somerset Mercury. The Mercury's campaign to safeguard the future of the South Parade venue was singled out for praise at a town council meeting on Tuesday night (March 13).A meeting had been called to decide whether Weston Town Council would renew the lease for Barcode Youth Cafe.Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Canniford told the meeting: "I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Weston Mercury for the campaign it has run as to bring the issue to the public's attention."A packed public gallery greeted Weston town councillors as they convened at the Town Hall on Tuesday to decide Barcode's fate.Their presence was made all the more poignant by the placards carried by many emblazoned with the words 'Save our Barcode'. Reverend Richard Taylor opened the meeting by calling on councillors to "have the well being of the community in mind" during the meeting. The councillors were expecting to be deciding whether or not to extend Barcode's lease, delay a decision for another year, or close it.However, a letter received from Tower Piece, owners of the South Parade site, revealed the option of delaying a decision on the future of the site for 12 months was no longer on the table.The letter said it would be unfair on the both the children and staff to have a year of uncertainty. Weston College student Nick Coles presented the mayor with a 12-page petition against its closure, collected during just one lunch time.Youth councillor Hannah Gibney, aged 19, gave an impassioned speech which summed up the mood of the many relatives of Barcode regulars who also spoke in support of the venue. She said: "It is a champion to other areas both locally and nationally and has brought young people together from all aspects of the community."It has installed a sense of pride in many who visit and are regulars in Barcode.""I am deeply disappointed by the lack of loyalty shown by those councillors who question whether we can be anything other than successful in our endeavours."I hope Weston's future adults can be sure their council has their best interests at heart."Barcode management board chairman Cllr Andrew Horler was next to speak. He said: "Trying to make money out of children leaves a bad taste in my mouth."Cllr Horler cited the example of a boy he saw being chased by other youths.He explained: "He came into Barcode because he knew he would be safe. His pursuers followed him into the venue but Barcode staff stepped in without hesitation and asked them to leave, in doing so defusing a potentially dangerous situation."Cllr Mike Bell reminded his colleagues of the comments of a man in his 70s who left a message of support on the Back Barcode website he set up in support of the under 18s cafe.Over 250 people signed the online petition.The pensioner's comment read: "This venue is a mark of excellence for Weston. Its closure would be a crime."Nobody spoke out against Barcode and councillors voted unanimously in favour of extending the lease by 10 years, bringing cheers from the young people who had gathered at the back of the Town Hall. The lease will now run to 2017 with a break clause in 2015. Cllr Bell said; "This should not be the end of the process but the beginning, to make Barcode better and provide even more for young people to do and unlock their potential."Cllr Canniford reminded those present of the minimal cost to taxpayers of keeping Barcode open.He said: "£2 a year is all it costs. If we only run services that make a profit are we going to close the schools, hospitals and cemeteries?"Cllr Bell added: "Those dinosaur councillors who have forgotten about what it is like to be young need to think again. Otherwise they can book themselves a long holiday after the elections on May 3."After the meeting Hannah said: "I am extremely relieved the council made the right decision and I'm very proud of the youth council for its campaigning efforts and its continued good work in the town."Cllr Horler said: "I see no reason why it cannot continue to be the nationally recognised centre for young people it has become."He also singled out town council clerk Linda Larter for special praise. He said: "I think she has done a fantastic job, not just for Barcode but for the town council as a whole and she is often not credited enough for the advice and guidance she gives to councillors. "The town is lucky to have such a great bunch of people working in all areas on its behalf.