Petition launched after council withholds youth club cash
Trustees now fear for the future financial stability of the Deepings Youth Group after councillors voted not to pay the previously budgeted and earmarked sum of £3,750 to help cover weekly running costs.
Market Deeping Town Councillors were plit on Wednesday night on whether to pay the outstanding balance of allocated funds from their precept to the youth group having already paid the first instalment earlier in the year. In the absence of the Mayor and another councillor having to declare an interest and decline from voting, the decision was made on the casting vote of the Deputy Mayor in the absence of the Mayor.
Supporters trying to secure the future of the group for 11-18 year olds have set up a Change.org petition which has already garnered over 100 signatures within hours of being launched.
Town clerk, Sarah Lydford said she was looking into various aspects of the situation and explained: “Payment was subject to satisfactory accounts being presented and some accounts were not satisfactory and we are looking into it further.”
She said that if the statements of accounts issue was resolved the council would find it easier to reconsider paying the outstanding money at a future monthly meeting.
Youth group trustee Judy Stevens, who is also a long serving district and parish councillor for Deeping St James, is frustrated at the town council’s decision. Her partner Paul Hanson is also chairman of the group having been a youth worker for 14 years.
In response to the news they have had numerous messages of support and financial aid from DYG past members.
Coun Stevens said: “Since Lincolnshire County Council cut the funding to DYG and to the library eight years ago. Deeping St James and Market Deeping councils have precepted for the basic running costs between them - MDTC precepted for the money last year but elected to give it to us in two tranches.
“We have had the first and on Wednesday night they voted on giving us the second - except that they didn’t. Our accounts are much healthier than they were when I became a trustee because I was fortunate enough to receive backing for two years as the Oddfellows charity of the year.
“We also currently have money in our accounts from UK Youth (which is not to be used as running costs) so we do have a healthy cushion, but we have to pay staff and for the rental of the building and where we had to cut our provision from three nights to two, three years ago, we were looking to work towards reinstating that when the current Covid situation is over - the principle of needing the council money is really important because without that security we cannot plan for the future.”
She dismissed the council’s argument that the accounts were not up to scratch, saying that DYG submitted its accounts in November last year and the Town Council precepted on that basis.
“They gave us half of the money and then asked us for more accounts which we submitted,” she said. “I believe they thought we had enough money without the second half of the precept, but actually some of that money shown is ringfenced money from UK Youth for the furtherance of DYG activities and not for day to day running costs and some of it is money we have been fundraising to try and open DYG on another day a week.”
“It seems that we are now being penalised for our hard work fundraising - let me be clear without the support of Deeping St James and Market Deeping Town Council we will not be able to stay open into the future. This also has implications for the library because it is also funded in this way.”
Run as a charity, she said the club’s future hangs in the balance: “To say that I am disappointed is an understatement - my colleagues and I work tirelessly to make DYG be there for the young people that need it - they have been done a huge disservice.”
Fellow trustee and volunteer, Jayne Reed added: “This is devastating news for our Youth Group as we rely heavily on these funds to keep us open.”
She claimed there had been no mention of revisiting the accounts at the latest meeting.
She questioned what would happen to the money witheld and if taxpayers would get a refund if unspent, whereas Deeping St James Parish Council had not queried its share of the annual payment.
The former town councillor said: “I see the brilliant outcomes first hand. Our members have a safe haven where they come along, meet friends and enjoy their time. How sad that one person casting a vote would not only decide not to let us have the vital funding that was already agreed back in late 2019/early 2020, but indeed is not afraid of jeopardising our Youth Group’s future.”
She said they were just wanting to future proof the club with what had already been pledged as they did not expect to receive further funding next year and did not want to let existing funds dwindle and have to close.
Ms Reed said the group helps the young people grow in personality: “One young lady sent me a Christmas card last year and said thank you for making her feel confident and helping her turn her life around - it makes me want to cry.
“They all worked really hard collecting and filling bags for the people isolating at the start of Covid and many of them helped deliver the bags.
“We have had Helpston ask our youth leader if she would help them set their youth group up, Crowland have just reached out to her also because the local villages recognise the good work we are doing and the need for these groups.
“We are always looking for more funding, its what we are meant to do as trusteees - it’s called business planning.”
She added that the councillor who had to declare an interest may still have been eligible to vote: “She has no direct financial or other gain to make so we are following this up via South Kesteven District Council.”