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Council ditch plans to cut youth project funding
A popular youth project which was facing cuts to its funding has been given a last minute reprieve.
The Duke of Edinburgh Scheme was earmarked in Merton Council's draft business plan for 2013-17 to have its funding stripped saving the council £25,000 and instead leaving schools and youth organisations to pick up the cost.
The national scheme offers those aged 14 to 25 the chance to attain bronze, silver and gold awards by taking part in sports, volunteering, learning new skills and embarking on outdoor expeditions.
The unpopular proposal had been criticised by opposition councillors with Liberal Democrats intending to table an amendment for the group’s funding to be preserved.
However Councillor Iain Dysart, leader of the Merton Liberal Democrats, said he was informed yesterday that the proposed cut had already been withdrawn.
Coun Dysart said: "We understand that at the last minute the Council has changed its mind on its decision to withdraw funding for the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme - and we're really pleased.
"Merton has played a leading role in encouraging and supporting the take-up of this highly valued scheme, which helps young people develop the skills and attitudes they need to become more rounded and confident adults.
"If the Council hadn't performed this u-turn, we had lodged an amendment to challenge the decision."
Councillor Mark Allison, cabinet member for finance, said: “During the scrutiny process, Councillors uncovered the fact that more students entered our Duke of Edinburgh scheme from private schools than from Merton’s state schools.
"Instead of cutting the funding and making things worse, they wanted us to use the money to encourage students from a wider background to participate.
"We thought that made sense, and have listened to their concerns.”
The draft budget for 2013/17 sets out a raft of proposed cuts and savings including plans to introduce parking charges at five of the park’s boroughs - a move predicted to generate £44,000.
The Polka children’s theatre and Attic Theatre group also face a cut of £5,000 a year.
However residents look set to be spared a rise in council tax Merton being the only south London council not to be proposing a council tax increase or cutting council tax support for low income families.
The draft budget will go before the full council on Wednesday, March 6.