COMMUNITY leaders are to hold a meeting aimed at protecting youth work in Wolvercote and Cutteslowe in the face of council spending cuts.

Under Oxfordshire County Council plans, 21 youth centres are set to have their funding withdrawn, including the 73-year-old Wolvercote Young People’s Centre, in St Peter’s Road.

The cuts, intended to save the council £4.2m a year, will also scale back youth work on estates like Cutteslowe, which shares its area youth worker with Wolvercote.

Senior councillors have urged communities to step in to run the centres themselves.

The Wolvercote centre, which includes a computer room, art room, kitchen and gym, costs £100,000 a year to run.

Tony Hewlett, chairman of the club’s fundraising trust, said that any savings in spending in youth services would be wiped out by extra pressure on police and the NHS, caused by young people with nowhere to go causing trouble.

The trustees have called a public meeting at the club on Tuesday, March 22, at 7.30pm, to ask Wolvercote residents to suggest ways to save the centre and its services.

They want other groups to share the building and to put together bids for funding from other sources, such as charities.

The future of youth worker Afzal Gill’s job is uncertain due to the council cutbacks.

Mr Hewlett said: “The aim is to try to get enough funds to carry on, but we don’t know how much is required.

“There are at least 30 of us interested in keeping it going, and the young people want to as well.

“Without it, young people will be left just drifting about. They respect the youth worker and take on board what he says, and we need him here talking to them.”

Megan Strong, 13, who goes to the club, said: “It’s somewhere to go to talk about problems. It’s not fair that they’re proposing closing it, and we will fight to keep it open.”

In Cutteslowe, the future of the 20-year-old Wednesday night youth club, held at the estate’s community centre, in Wren Road, is in doubt.

Community worker Liz Edwards said: “The kids have built up really good relationships with the youth worker. He does a lot of work on the streets, helping them with a lot of personal issues.

“To lose him would be really detrimental.

The young people would resent the loss of someone they trust and feel they can talk to.”

The council is offering £600,000 of funding to help communities to take on running of services such as libraries.

But Mr Hewlett said there would be intense competition for the money, because so many youth centres and libraries were affected.

If youth centre funding is withdrawn, the council plans to focus remaining funding on seven ‘hubs’ to tackle issues such as teenage pregnancy and drug abuse.