East Grinstead Taxpayers Can’t Afford a Youth Shelter | Cllr Charles Amos
On the 10th of September local taxpayers will be asked to pick up the maintenance and repairs bill for a proposed youth shelter in King George’s Field, and possibly part of the £9,600 construction cost itself (£11,250 inc. VAT). I urge local residents to lobby their Councillors against this proposal. There are three reasons why residents should oppose this misguided expenditure.
1. Taxpayers Can’t Afford It
Councillors must face up to the harsh reality that Covid has substantially damaged the Council’s finances. With rents at East Court having been halved and revenue streams substantially disturbed, the Town Council is perilously close to eating into its reserves. The country is in recession, and due to East Grinstead’s proximity to Gatwick, the town faces a wave of unemployment.
To commit funding to unspecified repairs, maintenance, and insurance costs is simply not wise. Given the shelter needs to be checked every 28 days, and the fact it will inevitably be vandalised, this cost is certain to be large and ongoing. This is exactly the kind of liability that shouldn’t be taken on at the moment.
Such funding could only be achieved via increased taxation; an unacceptable option. We already have a town precept over 20% higher than the national average. To further squeeze hard pressed taxpayers, many of whom face the prospect of unemployment, would be simply unbearable.
2. Young People Are Supported Well Enough
Teenagers in East Grinstead already receive a great deal from taxpayers. This year alone £3,000 will be spent on numerous youth sport organisations. Among those who receive this grant are the Football Club, the Hockey Club and the Cricket Club, not forgetting the Girls Football Club. This is in addition to the new quarter-pipe skate park that the District Council has recently installed.
Of course if the Street Pastors, those who have proposed the shelter, can fund the repairs and maintenance bills themselves then I would have no objection. If the community really wants such a youth shelter then no one should stop it being maintained voluntarily.
3. A Drug Dealing Shelter?
However, drawbacks to the shelter should also be considered. I know many residents are concerned that such a shelter shall become a focal point for drugs. One local pub, The Kentish Horse, once had a similar unsupervised shelter for teenagers to hang out in and that area was continually used for drug dealing. It had to be removed. Given this prospect, should the Council be forking out spending for such possible misuse?
East Grinstead taxpayers already provide a great deal for young people in the town. However, asking them to pick up the bill for a youth shelter, in the current economic situation, is simply a step too far. The Town Council must now exercise extreme prudence, unfortunately, not everything that is wanted can be had.
Cllr Charles Amos, Leader of The Opposition on East Grinstead Town Council, and Ward member for the location of the proposed youth shelter.