Following the disastrous way the Liberal Democrat administration ran schools and services for young people, a new community interest company was formed with Richmond called Achieving for Children (AFC). AfC was contracted by Kingston and Richmond to run children’s’ services. This means that just as the Liberal Democrats avoided direct accountability for educational services through the ballot box, so too have the Conservatives now running Kingston Council.
AFC overspent by £1.5million and is also having the amount of money in the contract reduced. So AFC is having to make savings. But is cutting Searchlight, a part of the Youth Service that serves Norbiton with pockets of the most deprived families in Kingston, the right thing to do? Or is this an example of making cuts that affect the people most in need but least able to fight back?
Searchlight, which has served generations of young Norbitonians, is due to be closed by the council, with young people encouraged to use the Dickerage Lane Adventure centre instead nearby.
A petition to save the centre has been started by local residents, and as of this week had gained more than 200 signatures.
Searchlight has been running for more than 30 years, providing youth club nights, as well as advice and help for young people.
But Norbiton Labour councillor Linsey Cottington said: “I am very pleased to see local residents signing the petition on Change.org to save our long established Searchlight Youth Centre in the heart of Norbiton.
“The Council wants to take away one of the very few facilities we have in this area and there are no promises to replace it with a new facility.
“I would urge all parents, grandparents and their neighbours to sign the petition so the Council understands loud and clear the strength of local feeling about our valued local facility.”
Cllr Cottington pointed out that Norbiton has pockets of severe deprivation amongst young families and children – and young people need the continuing support of their local youth centre.
Children and young people need a place of their own, which is the whole point of youth centres.
She added: “There are no proposals for replacing Searchlight within the local Norbiton community, and using general purpose local facilities is not a satisfactory solution.”
Local councillors have also successfully got grant funding from the Council recently for sporting activities and an after school club for years 6 and 7 at Searchlight.
Sign the petition against the closure of Searchlight here