Plans to hand over council-run youth clubs to the voluntary sector in Oxfordshire will be unsustainable unless additional funding and training is provided, a local infrastructure body has warned.
Seven voluntary groups and two schools are expected to take over youth centres from next month as part of Oxfordshire County Council’s cost-cutting plans. Four voluntary and community groups have also won bids to provide additional youth services.
But Anna Day, director of Oxfordshire Children and Voluntary Youth Services, which represents voluntary youth groups in the area, said the local authority had provided only a year’s funding through its Big Society Fund, after which organisations were expected to be self-funding.
"We’re delighted that the voluntary sector is being given the opportunity to deliver public services, but still deeply concerned about the long-term sustainability of the organisations taking on these facilities," said Day.
"We’d like local government to commit to providing at least 50 per cent of the funding again in the second year to allow organisations time to develop sustainable funding strategies."
Day added that some of the organisations were very small and had never fundraised before. "To expect them to have acquired the skills within a year to develop social enterprise models and become less reliant on public funding is deeply problematic," she said. "Organisations also need to be given support in developing the skills to manage these types of youth centres."
A council spokesman said it had reduced its youth services budget from £3.7m last year to £2.3m this year. In July, the council made £282,000 available through the Big Society Fund to support local groups that wanted to take over youth centres in the area.
The spokesman said the council currently funded 26 youth centres, of which 13 would continue to receive financial support. Nine would be handed over to community groups and the council was considering bids from interested parties to keep the remaining four open.
He added: "Every bid to the Big Society Fund had to provide a sustainable business case that proved it had a viable plan for the future. Had it not been able to convince the county council it had such viable plans, it would not have been awarded the money."