Youth services in Woodley could get its first major overhaul in almost 20 years, with the council announcing it will draw up a survey to find out what young people want.

Woodley Town Council (WTC) has held a £25k contract with Just Around the Corner (JAC) since 2001 to run youth outreach youth work in the town.

But the town council is under pressure to transform youth services, with claims young people “scarper” when they see JAC youth workers.

Spending by Wokingham Borough Council, which oversees WTC, has dropped from £986,400 per year in 2010-2011 to £63,000 per year in 2018-19, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

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Woodley Town Council (WTC) has sold the Airfield Youth Centre and the re-building of Bulmershe does not include a youth club anymore.

Lib Dem Woodley Town councillor Martin Doyle has attacked the council’s continued reliance on JAC and is leading a campaign for Woodley to get a new youth centre.

He said: “The response to JAC was initially good but today the kids are a lot wiser – they scarper when JAC come along.

“No justification is ever given for the contract. They are buying a service for which they have never identified a need.”

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The contract with JAC was extended by a year in a Strategy & Resources meeting on January 21 which was partially held in private to allow councillors to “voice their views” without being “vilified”.

Conservative councillor Keith Baker, leader of WTC, said there was a short-term extension rather a renewal of the contract because “no-one knows what the youth want”.

He explained in an exclusive interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service why it has taken so long to realise change is needed.

He said: “Up until now all organisations, councillors, police and youth workers have felt there wasn’t a requirement because they were doing a good job.

“But now various youth organisations have said what used to work before has gradually drifted off.

“The service is no longer addressing the needs of the youth who need reaching out to.

“What worked back in 2001 clearly doesn’t work in 2020.”

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Labour town councillor Nada Al-Sanjari, a committee member of the Community Youth Partnership (CYP), is writing up the survey which will initially go out to schools to “start getting some idea” of what the council needs to provide to youth.

The partnership is made up of town councillors and representatives from voluntary organisations in the town who work with young people.

Following the survey, which will be “as long as the CYP needs it to be”, according to Cllr Baker, the contract will go tender for the first time with any organisation able to apply.

Lib Dem Woodley Town councillor Martin Doyle, a humanist, said he does not want the council to renew a contract with Christian faith-led organisation JAC again.

He said: “I worry about the kids that are not getting these benefits. I am trying to get the money off this group and spent differently.”

The Lib Dem town councillor said JAC proselytises - the conversion or attempt to convert someone from one religion, belief, or opinion to another – and says the council should not fund this.

Cllr Baker rejected this suggestion, stating the council does not fund anything the group does related to getting the Christian message out.

He also criticised Cllr Doyle’s proposals, adding the Lib Dem town councillor “doesn’t know what will work” and young people “do not want a youth club”.

But Labour town councillor Nada Al-Sanjari, who co-leads the Woodley Needs  a Youth Club campaign with Cllr Doyle, said: "Since my election, I have been asking why it is that this council has never bothered to find out what young people want?

"I was never given any satisfactory answer. In fact, Keith Baker has repeatedly said young people do not want a youth centre, contrary to what I hear when I speak to my students."