PLANS by Hampshire County Council to cut funding for vital youth services by 80 per cent across Basingstoke have come under fire.

The local authority is aiming to save between £800,000 and £1.2million in 2015-16 from their youth support services following a cut in Government funding.

Currently, youth support services are supported by £1.8m of funding each year from the county council – but if the proposals are approved, this funding will drop to £973,000.

Services provided by the county council under the scheme include advice, information and guidance offered by voluntary groups to young people aged between 11 and 19.

As part of the proposals, 23 youth pods, which will provide centre-based targeted youth work, will be set up across Hampshire. They will provide information and advice on issues including sexual health, drugs and alcohol, homelessness, mental health issues and bullying.

One youth pod is being proposed for Basingstoke, receiving £43,920 per year from the county council and providing services for 12 hours per week.

In addition, an outreach programme, which will see people making contact with young people in Basingstoke for nine hours a week, is set to be created as a way to direct young people to Basingstoke’s youth pod.

But leading politicians across Basingstoke have hit out at the plans.

Councillor Gavin James, leader of the borough’s Liberal Democrat group, said: “This is the most outrageous proposal from the Conservatives for some considerable time.

“It is idiotic – the proposed youth pod is meant to offer advice and support on 24 different topics all in just 12 hours a week.

“There are almost 20,000 young people in Basingstoke and Deane in the 11-19 age range, who these services are aimed at. Obviously 95 per cent won’t need this service but even one per cent means 200 young people.”

Cllr Paul Harvey, deputy leader of the borough’s Labour group, told The Gazette: “I am furious about it. It is cuts on cuts because it was just a few years ago since the cuts to the Connexions service. The pressure on all the other organisations who will have had their budgets cut will be unbelievable. If you are a young person and need support and help, or you are in a vulnerable position and you need help, it is not going to be there.”

But Cllr Keith Mans, Conservative executive lead member for children’s services at the county council, defended the plans, saying: “In order for us to be able to continue to provide valuable support to young people, outside of our statutory obligations, we must find ways to do this differently and more efficiently – targeting the reduced funding we have available, to where it is most needed.”

A public consultation on the proposed changes will run until December 10, before a final decision is made by Cllr Mans.