Friday, 16 December 2011


Hi everyone – this is my last Blog for 2011, and so it’s a bit more reflective, and longer than usual.

The final stage of the lengthy commissioning process for services to young people looks likely resulting in Surrey Youth Consortium being likely to win some, but not all, of the contracts available – see Cabinet report for 20 Dec. on our website.

Surrey CC is moving to a commissioning process for voluntary sector support service bodies like the district/borough Councils for Voluntary Services (CVS) and Surrey Community Action (SCA) with effect from April 2013, and reducing grants to them all in 2012/13. My colleagues are also experiencing the imminent ending of a variety of government grants and in consequence SCA has just given 3 months notice of the likelihood of redundancy to a large group of staff. Whilst unavoidable now, it is a great pity that this is happening. My colleagues are pinning hopes of some offset by the prospect of a successful Transforming Local Infrastructure bid to the Lottery (£600,000 sought). Restructuring, mergers and, I fear, redundancies will be in evidence regardless of the success of the bid, but it’s tough on those likely to be losing their jobs in March. Happily our own core grant for next year is being maintained, though we are experiencing cuts elsewhere.

A sub -group of Trustees met this week to consider the budget for next year, and whilst this will be a second year of deficit budget,  our reserves are strong enough at present to see us through 2012/13. I am grateful for the trust and flexibility being exercised by Trustees. Fundraising is crucial for next year as it is for every other organisation, and we are preparing bids; the pity is that whilst we have to prioritise this, we can’t be delivering to our members so easily.

However, we are progressing some things. Our “4X4” project links 4 member charities to 4 businesses, and we are now actively engaged with the Chamber of Commerce in “match- making” the first group at the end of January. On the governance front we are strengthening the Board of Trustees/ Directors and will shortly have an outstandingly able Board. We are bringing together (brokering) some key stakeholders interested in the redevelopment of a site in Epsom owned by Sanctuary Housing that will become a new build supported housing hostel for homeless young people.

My perception is that there are two worrying issues amongst young people in Surrey : youth homelessness, and anxiety/depression. I am joining the Board of CAMHS so hopefully can contribute to the debate on the latter issue.

My Chairman and I had a very good meeting with the Leader of the County Council last week who intimated that he would have an important announcement at Tuesday’s County Council meeting, and indeed he then announced a £750,000 community grants programme for infrastructure projects and a commitment to partnership with the sector. Good news!

I think 2012 will be a year in which to read up about chaos theory; I think some organisation structures will break up, and be re-formed in a different shape. Whilst the background of financial pressures will continue, I also think there will be more opportunities for those who hold their nerve to access new targeted programmes from Government (who cannot run with 3 mill people unemployed and expect to be re- elected in May 2015) and from social finance/ philanthropy. 

Surrey Youth Focus is clear about what it’s doing, and our place in the scheme of things (stay small, low cost, innovative, risk – taking, and high profile for our members’ sake).

And finally, my thanks to my small team of very big people – Kate Peters (Members Services), Karen Moore (social media) and Marie Silvester (Youth Development worker) – I think we all deliver way more at lower cost than could reasonably be expected from just 2.5 FTEs worth of staff, and we go into next year with confidence.

Happy Christmas, and an enterprising New Year!


Friday, 9 December 2011

It is the Season

Several important developments this week. 

I attended (as Chair) the South East Youth Partnership on Wednesday and it’s always useful for catching up on news from other authorities. Bucks CC have transferred their youth centres straight to local community organisations to run, with a dowry….

The Government’s new policy on “Positive for Youth” is due out shortly – you can check progress at:

Excellent meeting with Louise Puntner from Surrey Chambers, and facilitated by our trustee Nigel Biggs, about our 4X4 Scheme (title invented by Yvonne Hignell of HALOW) whereby we link 4 charities to 4 businesses in a long term mentoring type relationship – skills transfer, support and advice, and perhaps funding, but that is a secondary aim. We will have this up and running with the first 4 by the end of January.

I seem to have been at County hall a lot this week. First, on Monday my Chairman, David Hypher and I met with David Hodge (Surrey CC Leader) and Kay Hammond (Cabinet member – young people) about various issues, and were able to mention the prospective development of a new youth hostel in the centre of Epsom for homeless young people, which will trigger some reorganization of youth centres in the area, and be of great benefit. We are acting in a brokerage capacity with the key stakeholders.

Then on Thursday morning I participated in a discussion about how Surrey CC might respond to the Localism Act. There was some muddled thinking around about commissioning,  and I thought a failure to recognize that adoption of the principle of subsidiarity (correctly) needed to be preceded by being clear about what standards or norms need first to be done centrally. I also discerned a wariness about losing entrenched roles (amongst councilors of both county and district) and an unwillingness to address Surrey’s in built high cost structure of three tiers (county, district, parish),  but will taxpayers put up with this in future?

And finally a lovely Christmas Reception at County Hall last night hosted by the Chairman (Lavinia Sealy) and at last I’m beginning to feel in the Christmas mood!


Friday, 2 December 2011

Sky High

A strange, rather dark week – the international/national and hence local news is very disquieting and takes me back to 16 Sept 1992 (our wedding anniversary) when interests rates when sky high that day 22% , until Norman Lamont, the Chancellor then pulled the UK out of the European Monetary Union.

If anyone thinks these international events are not relevant, you are mistaken; Surrey CC is facing another round of spending cuts already in addition to those already made, and this will impact on the voluntary, community and faith sector in due course.

My concern is for the impact of all this on young people, and I am checking on statistics in two areas: youth homelessness, and on the mental health/wellbeing of young people. In regard to the after I am replacing Pete Brayne (Guildford YMCA) on the CAMHS board. Surprisingly, the latest statistics for unemployment amongst young people aged under 25 (in October) have gone down - no obvious explanation other than the resilience of the Surrey economy. Last Friday’s “Young people and society” public meeting at NESCOT FE college in Epsom went ok – 45 people or so, including a group of students for whom the key issue was how to get work experience placements as part of their course.

We had a Keeping in Touch meeting with Surrey CC’s Assistant Director for Young People (Garath Symonds) on Wednesday, and it seems that the Surrey Youth Consortium has done ok in the bidding process for contracts but no formal announcements are yet made. Quiet satisfaction.

I was then at County Hall again on Thursday giving evidence to a Select C’tee about the cuts in grants to voluntary infrastructure bodies and its intention to move to a commissioning model. The SCC officers have been very open and collaborative in their working and this was acknowledged. I then has a Sports Partnership in the afternoon, working on the action plan to implement the Sports Strategy.

My mood for the week has not been helped by being stuck on the A3 yesterday for over an hour because of an overturned lorry, then spending an hour getting out of Guildford in the evening,  and hearing rather discouraging news from the Lottery about a grant bid, though I am pressing on with it, but to a different funding stream. The good news is that a further grant payment is being paid by Surrey CC that enables us to retain our youth development worker during 2011/12.

Off now to the Children and Young People’s Assembly – more next week.