Haringey’s new “Corbyn Council” was in the news last week for pulling the plug on the previous Labour administration’s proposed development vehicle, which would have delivered 6,400 new homes across the borough, 40 per cent of them affordable. Ditching the plan will cost the council at least £520,000 and there is a threat of a legal claim for “loss of profits and costs”.
Under the radar, however, another costly decision has slipped out quietly. In a written answer to a question tabled at the full council meeting on 16 July, Mark Blake, the new cabinet member for communities, safety and engagement, revealed that a report would be presented in September “recommending that we halt the proposals for a Youth Zone in Haringey”.
The announcement appears to kill off plans which were approved in March this year – shortly before the borough elections which brought about the change in the council leadership – for a £6.5m investment in youth facilities in Wood Green, comprising £3.5m capital investment and £900,000 a year revenue via the charity OnSide, plus a further £3m capital and £250,000 a year revenue contribution from the council itself.
The purpose-built Youth Zone, on unused school land, would have offered daily affordable activities for more than 200 young people each evening, including “open access” sports, arts and social activities alongside targeted support in employment, mentoring and physical and emotional wellbeing, according to a council report.
The then council leader Claire Kober said the Youth Zone would have provided facilities the council would have been unable to supply alone and would have run in addition to the existing council-owned youth centre in Bruce Grove, Tottenham.
Launched in 2008, OnSide has a network of 10 similar Youth Zones mainly in northern England, but with projects also underway in Barking & Dagenham, Barnet, Croydon and Hammersmith & Fulham. In London, OnSide is supported by the Lord Mayor’s charity.
Blake’s written answer says the council will be considering other options “which will better meet our strategic objectives,” but no further information is provided. Objections raised previously included concerns about a “single base” model, the accessibility of the proposed location and impact on other youth services spending.
Charles Wright is a former Haringey councillor.
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