In a post a couple of years ago on 100 ways to cut Council Tax without cutting key services, numbers 86 and 87 read:
86. Youth Clubs and Youth Centres. These should not be run by the Council: they are typically pretty drab, dreary institutions when they are. Some of the money saved by closing them could go in higher grants to charitable and church groups which run youth groups, or partnership arrangements with the private sector or groups like the Prince's Trust who provide facilities for the young.
87. Cease employing Youth Workers. Activities such as Youth Forums and Youth Parliaments are generally pretty meaningless and low in numbers participating. Instead look at initiatives that don't really cost money. Hosting school debating competitions at the Town Hall for instance – which can also provide a positive opportunity for children from LEA and independent schools to mix. These can be organised by the schools themselves without employment of Youth Workers.
So I am pleased that local authorities are pursuing value for money with greater rigour in this area.
But the trade unions are not pleased. They have launched a campaign with lots of graffiti-style typography. It presents itself as championing the Big Society and volunteering. This is thoroughly disingenuous. It is championing the vested interests of bureaucracy and the Big State. Their manifesto offers the example of Lambeth. But that is where the Labour Council is very sensibly decommissioning the youth service to free up funding for the voluntary sector.
Youth workers do not need to be Council employed, trade union members. Shaun Bailey, the Government's Big Society Ambassador, is a youth worker but not a Council employed youth worker. He is a co-founder of My Generation, a charity set up to address the social problems that affect young people and their families, including anti-social behaviour, drug use, crime, teen pregnancy, educational underachievement and unemployment.
That is just the sort of initiative that merits support.