Labour under pressure for misleading youth service claims

Pressure was mounting on the Labour Party in Bexley to apologise for making misleading claims about youth provision in Belvedere after figures released at Wednesday’s Full Council meeting [8 November 2007] showed a dramatic increase in the numbers of young people attending youth services as a result of the decision to provide an outreach youth service.

Labour’s only Belvedere Councillor, Daniel Francis had wrongly and repeatedly claimed in August and September that youth services were being taken away from Belvedere. However, month-by-month figures comparing the numbers attending the outreach services in Frank’s Park and the Upper Belvedere recreation ground on Monday nights showed that over 90 young people were using the youth service in Belvedere compared to as few as 6 under the previous arrangements at the Belvedere Community Centre.

There was further embarrassment for Cllr Francis when it was also revealed that the youth service had no record of him visiting the outreach service, despite him claiming to have been there and seen 15-20 young people. Chairman of the Youth Cabinet Advisory Group and Belvedere Conservative Councillor David Leaf, said:

“The Labour Party’s claims about youth provision are thoroughly discredited and they should apologise immediately for misleading local residents. After listening to young people, changes were made to youth services in the Belvedere area and attendance figures are now significantly higher. Although the youth service has no record of a visit to Belvedere during 2007 by Labour Councillors, their claims that 15-20 people were attending a week are still far more than the previous monthly attendance figures for the youth night at the Belvedere Community Centre. Cllr Francis and Labour should stop with their attempts to spin this issue and start to show support for the young people who helped make this decision and the youth service staff, who do a tremendous job.”

Cllr Leaf also slammed Labour’s Bexley Group Leader, Councillor Chris Ball, for criticising the changes without having seen the outreach work being carried out by the youth service workers. He said:

“During the Council meeting, Councillor Ball made a valid point about the importance of using the youth service to engage with young people. However, had he bothered to visit the outreach service in Belvedere before criticising the changes, he would know that the youth service staff are doing a fantastic job engaging with young people and helping them with their problems. The youth service staff have worked hard to earn the respect and trust of many young people in Belvedere and it is such a pity that the Labour Party is trying to undermine this.”

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