A YOUTH worker has branded proposals to close an Ilkeston youth club ‘criminal.’

Jack Smithurst has been involved with the running of the Cantelupe Centre Youth Club for 41 years and said that young people in the town will suffer greatly if Derbyshire County Council’s cash cutting plans to shut the centre go ahead.

Mr Smithurst said: “What the council are planning to do is criminal. All this for what? So the suits can still have their posh lunches at County Hall. It’s disgusting.

“These are real people who will really feel it if the club closes down.”

The council is currently consulting on the future of 29 county youth clubs. Instead of funding the running of the clubs a grant scheme would be set up allowing voluntary and community groups to apply for funding to offer similar services.

Around 25-35 young people attend the club which is open on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights every week.

Lucy Jarvis, 14, is a regular at the club. She said: “It’s a huge let down because it’s really the only place to go for a lot of us. “It really helped me to gain confidence and extra friends. It’s really, really sad that it’s closing.

“The club helps so many people in a lot of ways, it really understands us.”

Mr Smithurst added: “The majority of our members really need our help. We provide support for them on a variety of issues including drug and alcohol misuse, sexual health, help with job applications.

“Ok there are schools and colleges but they just can’t provide the same support as us.

“We are giving these young people the help they need and have a right to in an appropriate and suitable environment, an environment they’ve helped design. Everything we do is tailored around our members.”

Members have set up a Facebook group and started collecting signatures for a petition to save the club.

Cllr Barry Lewis, Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for young people, said: “The way youth activities have been delivered has not been changed for many years and we want to make sure our finger is on the pulse and we’re doing everything possible to give young people what they need, when and where they need it.

“We want to make the most of the money we spend and offer support to the county’s main provider of youth activities – our partners in the voluntary sector and community groups.

“By consulting on our proposals we hope to offer the best activities for our young people that meet their needs.”

But Mr Smithurst revealed his biggest concern was that the loss of the centre would leave many members isolated.

“They will lose what has become a huge part of their lives and that isn’t right,” he said.

Let us know what you think email news@ilkestonadvertiser.co.uk or tweet @IlkestonTiser.

To fill in a consultation form visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk and follow links to the consultations section.