Youth projects share county's £2m windfall

June 11, 2008 1:38 PM
By Piers Meyler in Brentwood Gazette

WOULD-BE youth projects in Brentwood are set for a share of a £2million windfall, thanks to a ground-breaking scheme helping to realise the dreams of Essex communities.

Essex County Council has pledged the money as part of its innovative Community Initiatives Fund - the first of its kind in the UK - which has granted more than £5million to 600 vital schemes across the county since its inception two years ago.

Brentwood will receive a £155,000 share of the pot as it is to be divided equally among the county's 12 local authorities, specially for youth-based projects.

Community leaders are already mulling over how the cash should be spent.

Liberal Democrat leader, David Kendall wants to use some of it to set up a youth forum for the town, as promised in the local party's election campaign last month. He said: "If this money is to be spent wisely, then it is vital to get young people in Brentwood involved in the decision-making process right from the start.

"I believe a youth forum would be a positive step forward and would give young people a platform to be heard on issues such as personal safety, transport and much-needed new facilities."

Labour group Mike Le-Surf is calling for some of the cash to be spent on youth shelters for youngsters on the Eastham and Three Arches estates.

Last week the Gazette reported on a public meeting called to discuss anti-social behaviour in the area as residents claim the estates are blighted by underage drinking, violence and yobbish behaviour.

Cllr Le-Surf is keen to introduce a dedicated teen shelter but says the stumbling block is where it should be located.

"It would have to be on the edge of the estate but within walking distance for the youngsters to get to so they can hang out without causing problems too near to people's homes," he said.

"I see around 20 youngsters who meet up some evenings without anywhere to go or anything to do. These facilities would help to address that problem."

And council leader, Cllr Brandon Lewis is urging community groups to make the most of the grant by putting their projects forward for cash.

He said: "There are so many really good causes that deserve this kind of help. It's not for us to decide, the decisions are made by an independent panel and it's up to community groups to apply for grants."

However, the Tory leader added: "The Community Initiatives have helped so many local projects so I just hope local groups will make the most of this opportunity. They need to get their bids in and make full use of these funds to help get their ideas off the ground and put new projects together."

The deadline for grant applications is September 12, but there will be a second round of bids with a January 16 closing date next year.

Visit www.communityinitiativesfund.co.uk for an application form.