Tower Hamlets councillors call on mayor to halt youth clubs take-over

Calls have been made for a u-turn to stop youth clubs and projects in London’s deprived East End run by neighbourhood communities being taken over by the Town Hall.

The demands came after a mass petition from teenagers and an impassioned plea by youth worker Helal Ahmed to Tower Hamlets councillors to protest at plans to take back control of youth services currently contracted out.

Helal, who runs projects for Poplar Harca housing organisation, told last night’s council meeting: “I’m here for 2,400 young people, volunteers and youth workers who signed the petition, all concerned about the plans.

“We have exceeded national targets which is the envy of local authorities across the country, received praise from Ofsted and the government and attracted international recognition for the way we put young people and their needs first.”

His pleas were backed by councillors who called on Mayor Lutfur Rahman to rethink the move.

They voted to oppose the take-over planned for October and called on the Mayor to “listen to communities.”

A motion by Labour’s Rachael Saunders declared that it was right to work with community partners in tough times—and wrong to undermine relationships unilaterally, that young people were able to lead their own services.

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She said after the meeting: “I’m calling on mayor to make a u-turn if he cares about the young people of the East End. He should talk to them in a consultation.”

Mayor Rahman’s executive argued that it would save money if Town Hall staff took over from Third Sector organisations and schools who manage the contracts. Opponents claim no evidence or numbers have been given to back this up.

In April, head-teacher Kenny Frederick at George Green’s Secondary which is contracted to run youth services on the Isle of Dogs warned in the Advertiser that she feared a return to street gangs if the Town Hall took back control from the community.