onsideyouthzones.org onside youth zones initiative
The Youth Zones initiative illustrates what is possible when the state becomes an enabler

Sir, When Blackpool first prospered, the town was run by local entrepreneurs who served on the council and supported local businesses and charities. Blackpool is now one of Britain’s poorest towns (“On the edge: The town the British economy forgot”, FT Magazine, November 18). The private and voluntary sectors have shrunk. The public sector is predominant. The council is leading efforts to revive the local economy, but recovery dependent upon public funding is unsustainable given a 50 per cent cut to its budget.

Britain’s economic and social problems are beyond the capacity of the state and of any of the sectors acting on their own. The solution is for the public, private and voluntary sectors to collaborate locally wherever possible.

In response to cuts to youth services, a philanthropic initiative in Bolton has created Onside Youth Zones, a charity aiming to build a national network of quality, safe and affordable places for young people. Partnership between the public, private and voluntary sectors, their young members and local volunteers, makes possible a genuine community effort. Local authorities contribute 40 per cent of running costs and earn a six times return on public investment via reduced anti-social behaviour and higher youth employment.

Youth Zones illustrate what is possible when the state becomes an enabler rather than a provider and when local interests join forces to respond to community need. Crucially, the state does not dictate terms.

Blackpool’s problems will not be easily overcome but the town is an island of poverty in a sea of prosperity. There is great wealth in the north-west and this should be harnessed to revive the private sector and to create a thriving voluntary sector without which Blackpool cannot prosper. The key is collaboration for the common good.

John Nickson
London W9, UK

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