Youth centres across in Hitchin, Hatfield, Royston and St Albans are to close, as part of a package of measures designed to make savings of almost £1m.

The decision to close or withdraw from the centres – as well as ones in Buntingford and Rickmansworth – was taken by a meeting of the county council’s cabinet on Monday, December 4.

It’s part of a wider ‘redesign’ of the council’s ‘Services for Young People’ (SfYP), that will cut costs by an estimated £990k a year.

The number of weekly evening youth work projects and places available on school holiday programmes will be reduced, as part of the ‘redesign’.

There will also be a move towards targeting work at those who are most vulnerable, such as those with SEND, those ‘missing from education’ or those ‘not in education, employment or training’.

At the meeting leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts stressed that the buildings that were being closed were ‘either poorly used, poorly maintained or beyond their sell-by’.

He said they would find other ways to support ‘service delivery’ – particularly highlighting Royston, where he suggested they had ‘a potential solution’.

According to the report, the Royston centre has not been operational for more than four years "due to the very poor condition of the building"– and would require "significant investment to make it fit for purpose".

Catherine Street young peoples centre, in St Albans, was only intended as a short-term solution during the redevelopment of the Ariston site.

Meanwhile, the Hitchin site is said to have "limited space" and "lacks the flexible delivery environment to enable a full programme of activities to be available for young people".

Meanwhile the report says that work at Hatfield will be delivered from Breaks Manor Youth and Community Centre or relocated to Welwyn Garden City young people's centre.

According to the report, 16 young people's centres will be retained across the county – with at least one in each of the 10 districts or boroughs.

Presenting the proposals, executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Caroline Clapper said: “I am really pleased to say that the underpinning priority work for this is under five key areas, which is for children with SEND who are definitely most vulnerable, for school inclusion; for young people not in education, employment or training, our traded offer to schools and to support the coordination, promotion and development of our voluntary youth service.”

Cllr Clapper acknowledged concerns that had been raised relating to the planned reduction in workforce and the potential reduction in service.

But she also highlighted plans to create 20 new posts in the service, funded from the £5m-a-year additional funding allocated to SEND earlier this year.

She added that following discussions there were plans to put £200k back in to the evening sessions, in order to "reduce the reduction".

Cllr Roberts also acknowledged the ‘additional £200k’ that was being put back into the evening work programme for young people, suggesting that the service was "invaluable’ in the ‘post-covid world".

“There is more vulnerability – particularly those young teenagers – and your youth service in invaluable,” he said.

“It is still a significant strength in the county.”

The ‘redesign’ was subject to a period of public consultation earlier this year – with three online consultations for staff, young people and ‘wider stakeholders’, running between July 17 and October 9.

Survey responses were received from 1,509 young people, 130 SfYP staff and 605 ‘stakeholders’.

According to the report presented to cabinet: “All three surveys point to the importance of working within the themed priorities identified for 2024 and beyond and are broadly in support of SfYP proposals.”