TACKLING anti-social behaviour and youth crime in Witney will not be easy, says the founder of an organisation branded 'the voice of young people in West Oxfordshire'.

Barry Ingleton, CEO and founder of social enterprise Synolos, stressed there was 'not just one solution' to the town's growing issue.

Mr Ingleton was speaking days after a shocking attack left a 66-year-old jogger with minor injuries after he was assaulted by a group of teenage boys on Mill Street.

Meanwhile, Witney Town Council clerk Sharon Groth revealed police had warned the council about 'problems in the town'.

Read again: Pensioner attacked by teenagers while out jogging

Ms Groth will tomorrow meet with town and county councillor Laura Price to make arrangements for an 'urgent forum', where key stakeholders will discuss how to increase youth services in Witney.

Synolos is one of the organisations set to attend the forum, but its CEO believes stemming the rise in anti-social behaviour and vandalism goes deeper.

Mr Ingleton said: “It’s very easy to set up places for young people to go, but they need to be able to feel part of the community.”

“With youth work it isn’t always clear where that responsibility lies.”

"It’s very easy to get worked up about youth crime.

“We have to understand that young people are volatile and if they see a perceived injustice they may react without thinking.”

“There are individuals behind the actions that may have experienced something horrible that we cannot comprehend.

“That’s why we need to educated the population - it’s not all self-inflicted.”

Synolos currently works with 48 young people full-time in West Oxfordshire, with an emphasis on education while providing work-based and wellbeing programmes.

Oxford Mail: Synolos CEO Barry Ingleton. Pic by Jon Lewis.Synolos CEO Barry Ingleton. Pic by Jon <a href="/search/?search=Lewis+Dexter+ITV&topic_id=6063" target="_self">Lewis</a>.

Mr Ingleton said 93 per cent of young people the organisation works with go into training or employment, but believes longevity is the main hurdle to implementing new youth services in Witney.

He said: “If the town and county council come up with funding for the next year then that’s great.

“But when cuts come and budgets change these things fall apart.

“It’s about momentum and having the individuals to protect that.”

Since 2011, Oxfordshire County Council has scaled back youth services, while Witney charity Base 33, which supported hundreds of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, shut in 2017.

Eight years ago, seven early intervention youth hubs, including one in Witney, opened their doors after funding was cut for 13 youth centres across the county.

The West Oxfordshire Early Intervention Hub, based on Witan Way, later transitioned into the Children and Family Centre.

The county council will be among the stakeholders invited to the forum and the authority's cabinet yesterday discussed its budget for the 2019/20 financial year.

But Ms Price admitted a lack of funding for youth services in the budget was dispiriting.

Read again: 'More youth services needed to combat crime'

The Labour councillor said: “I’m disappointed there isn’t anything that addresses that shortfall on youth work.

“Now is the time for the ruling Conservative group to say they went too far in cutting back youth services.”

She added: “It’s not just about the loss of youth services having an impact on anti-social behaviour, it’s about the role they can play in the solution."

Oxford Mail:

The assault of the jogger is the latest of several unsavoury incidents in Witney in recent months.

In October, three teenagers, including a 14-year-old boy, were arrested after a party at Burwell Hall attended by more than 200 people turned violent, with officers kicked and spat at.

One month later, residents on Burwell Meadow and Burwell Drive described seeing fireworks aimed at a group of teenagers in Witney from a van.

One case of vandalism saw two perspex panels at Newland bus shelter damaged in two separate attacks, destroying an art instillation created by students at Abingdon and Witney College.

Ms Groth said the town council works with police 'to make sure the areas we're responsible for are safe for residents to enjoy'.

She added that Base 33 had been a 'big loss' for the town, although Oxfordshire County Council spokesperson Paul Smith reiterated the local authority’s commitment to youth provision.

He said: “The children’s social care budget in Oxfordshire is set to double from £46m in 2011 to £95m in 2023.

“As part of that, posts have been created in early help and edge of care services, there’s a specialist exploitation team, new care homes and supported housing and supported lodgings for young people.

“The county council still has a standalone Youth Justice Team and Education, Employment and Training Service.

“The voluntary sector remains a real contributor to youth services throughout Oxfordshire.

“More is spent on services for young people, not less when compared to 2011 – even if that spend is directed at those most in need.”