Connexions Protest And More ‘Consultations’ Semantics By County Councillors.
As the Con-Dem government begin to live up to their name it is the Norfolk Connexions service that finds its head squarely on the block, with 65 jobs to be cut.
Yesterday a coalition of Unison members, community groups, employees and users of the service picketed outside County Hall to raise awareness of their cause and to urge councillors to enter the fight to save the service.
About 150 demonstrators turned up despite the 9am start! Decked out in the purple shirts of the Connexions service the only thing louder than the the garb of the protesters were their chants and the songs performed by a local trio of musicians supporting the cause.
After an hour of picketing a large contingent went to sit in on the meeting of the county council, to create a visual pressure on the elected representatives to do some justice for the people of Norfolk. This quickly proved futile as the best part of the first half hour of proceedings were taken up by councillors declaring interest in BP before the discussion of the Norfolk pension fund. We promptly left in disgust.
Here’s how the EDP reported the event…
Hopes fade for Norfolk careers service
Hopes of saving a lifeline Norfolk careers service from drastic cuts are fading after council members voted in favour of a plan to cut its funding.
Scores of young people joined forces with redundancy-threatened workers and union activists as they descended on County Hall yesterday in a bid to urge members of Norfolk County Council to vote against a plan to cut the Connexions service.
Their protest looked to be in vain as a two hour debate saw members vote in favour of the recommendations put to the council, which could lead to 65 job losses.
But after the meeting, campaigners vowed to continue to press against the cuts ahead of a meeting on September 6.
Ruth Thacker, a Unison steward, said: “Some of the comments made were very positive which was nice to hear.
“Obviously it doesn’t sound too hopeful in the long-run but it was an emotive meeting and there were some abstentions. It’s a slow process of getting people to understand what we do.
“It’s definitely a financial issue that has to be explored and hopefully common sense will prevail.”
As previously reported, the county council plans to axe £2.8m from the service, which provides advice and guidance to thousands of young people aged from 13 to 19, as part of a £10m package of savings.
Supporters of the service fear the move will severely affect the crucial support offered to young people and lead to a big increase in youth unemployment and teenage pregnancy.
During yesterday’s full council meeting, Paul Morse, county councillor for North Walsham East, said: “This is out and out salami slicing.
“The way the council has approached this whole episode is the easy option. There are three reasons why the council is going for Connexions – members in this chamber are not really involved in the service and don’t know much about it, Connexions is fairly recent so it has not got many friends high up and it’s a preventative service so the client group does not have a voice.”
Members heard how the service does not only provide young people with careers advice but also a range of support from healthy eating to homelessness, anti-social behaviour to sexual health.
In 2009, it helped 1,300 young people get work and apprenticeships.
Tory councillors argued that the savings were necessary and although the service will be reduced, it is not going to be scrapped completely.
Daniel Cox, leader of the council, said: “There’s no reason why young people wouldn’t receive the same advice they currently need. It’s not being abolished, just reshaped. We are not taking away advice, we are looking at the best way of providing advice to young people with the money available.”
A meeting will be held at County Hall on September 6 after consultation with trade unions.