Youth counselling saved – for now

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A devastating cut to a ‘lifeline’ for young people across Buckinghamshire has been postponed by council chiefs.

The surprise news that Time To Talk Bucks would be saved came at a meeting of Bucks County Council’s full council on Thursday.

Leader Martin Tett was presenting the budget when he announced the stay of execution, which will allow the service three years of reducing funding so there is time to find alternative cash.

Time to Talk encompasses the Connexions service in Aylesbury, and helps around 2,000 young people every year.

Staff at the service had warned that the number of suicides among young people would increase if their £270,000 worth of funding was slashed.

Martin Tett: “I think they (Time to Talk) provide a seriously valuable service in the area of mental health which has previously had a stigma attached to it.”

But UKIP leader Andy Huxley said that the move was ‘too little and a token gesture’.

Money enabling the rethink was given to the council by the government. The council has received £9million worth of funding to help the council adapt to a massive cut in the government grant.

By the 2018/19 financial year the council will not receive any government grant money at all, and will have to completely rethink how to provide its services.

Mr Tett said local government cuts by central government had put him at odds with his Tory party colleagues at Westminster, but added that George Osborne was doing what he could to balance the books.

In an address at the start of the meeting Mr Tett said that the council will have to find more innovative ways of saving and generating money.

He also said that ‘serious conversations’ would have to be had with Department for Education chiefs about funding for an increase in pupils looking to attend Bucks schools.

Before the budget was voted through, opposition leaders had the opportunity to speak for their groups about the proposals.

Avril Davies of the Liberal Democrats gave a scathing speech criticising Conservative councillors for promoting the party that imposed the cuts at the last election campaign.

She said that some of the cuts were ‘simply cruel’ such as cutting respite care for people with disabilities.

But she added that the ruling party had shied away from making tough decisions, and that this budget is even worse than last year’s for not specifying how savings will be made.

Independent Phil Gomm also spoke out, saying that too much pressure was being put on the social workers protecting the most vulnerable.

Mr Gomm also raised the point of empty council-owned buildings such as Wycombe Library.

He asked why these buildings had not been let out to generate a revenue stream.

He said: “If we all ran our business that way I don’t think I would be a millionaire anymore.”

Mr Tett responded by saying that the council spends 60p in every pound on vulnerable people, and that there will be no cut to children’s services, which was branded inadequate by Ofsted in 2014.

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