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Lewisham Council's youth centre closure proposals warning
A YOUTH club volunteer says he cannot sleep now Lewisham's "heartbeat" youth centres are threatened with the axe.
Grove Park Youth Club is one of three centres earmarked for closure following a council budget squeeze.
A proposal has been made to reshuffle youth services, dropping three out of 11 sites directly funded by the local authority and ceasing council services at nine centres run by other organisations.
Lewisham Council says the facilities that will be saved are based in a high level of need, allowing it to make full use of their potential.
But Tommy Mcnally, who volunteers at the Marvels Lane site in Grove Park, said: "These clubs have been going for 50 to 60 years. They are the heartbeat of the community.
"It's an absolute crime. I know there are budget cuts but when these kids need help and guidance the most, they are taking it away.
"This is literally the last thing they have got left. "I'm heartbroken by it. I haven’t slept for the last four days."
The banker coaches football at the centre, which caters for up to 400 children from four to 16, offering arts, a homework club, table tennis, cooking and computer suite.
Mr Mcnally said: "The stuff it does is so priceless to so many people, I know what damage it is going to cause to every one of those kids.
"They will be driven to crime, youth pregnancy, truancy, unemployment."
The 27-year-old, who grew up in a tower block in Lewisham, added: "The look of abandonment on their faces when they were told.
"If you have a heart and you see these kids’ faces, you can’t sleep."
The council says no final decision has been made about the clubs and a consultation is running until December 31 on the changes, earmarked for 2013 and 2014.
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: "We are doing everything we can to protect the things people value most, but the financial situation we face is very serious.
"While we will continue to work every penny of taxpayers' money as hard as we can, the government’s squeeze on public spending means we will inevitably face some very difficult decisions over the coming months."
He added: "Supporting Lewisham’s young people is a top priority for me and it will remain so whatever decisions are made regarding future youth provision."
For young people and parents/ carers to hear more about the proposals and share their views.
Tomorrow [December 5] Youth Village, 148 Ladywell Centre, Dressington Avenue, Ladywell, 7pm to 9.30pm.
Thursday [December 6] Bellingham Gateway Youth and Community Centre, 185 Brookehowse Road, Bellingham 3pm to 6pm.
Friday [Dec 7] Oakridge Road Youth Centre, 5 Oakridge Road, Downham, 5pm to 7.30pm.