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New Addington community leaders urge council not to cut Croydon Auto Bikes Scheme funding

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COMMUNITY leaders have urged the council to reconsider cutting funds to a scheme that has helped hundreds of youths on the estate become "responsible citizens".

The council wants to axe the £70,000 annual grant to the Croydon Auto Bike Scheme (CABS) from 2014/15, part of a slew of measures to save £36 million over the next two years amid government funding cuts.

That would raise serious doubts about the future of the "crime diversion" programme based in Fieldway, in which wayward youths learn about motorbikes alongside issues like sexual health and avoiding drugs and gangs.

Marion Burchell, chair of Pathfinders community group, said the cuts could result in a "huge loss" to the estate's young people.

She said: "I worry about who will pick up that cost to try and keep the group running.

"Young people there don't just learn to ride bikes – they teach them about everything – drugs, sexual health.

"A lot of young people return to visit [after they have finished their course] because they want to. The guys that run it are really good."

Run by the Croydon Youth Development Trust, CABS has been involved with more than 1,500 young people from across the borough since it started in 2009.

It was one of a handful of community projects in New Addington awarded money by Channel 4's 'secret millionaire' Bobby Dudani when he visited the estate in June.

John Steel, who runs the Steel Gym in Vulcan Way, said he "could not understand" how such an important scheme could have its funding cut.

He said: "The riots were a massive indication of how low the youth is – they are hopeless, completely hopeless. We are running youth days up here where we allow them to come and train for £2.

"We pay a lot of council tax and no-one helps us out."

Councillor Tim Pollard, cabinet member for children and young people, defended the plans as necessary in the face of the authority's slashed budget.

He said: "The issue is that we have got to the end of being able to cut things that people don't value as much and we are now cutting things that people do value.

"We're at the point where we are definitely cutting things that we are not happy about.

"Does it worry me? Yes, but I think we have to balance what must be done with things that are good to do and this is one of those things."

Fieldway councillor Carole Bonner called the plans "short-sighted".

She said: "What is this going to cost us in the future? I've known young people who have been to the project, and seen the difference it's made to their lives.

"If they are not given the opportunity to find a way out of a life of crime and become responsible citizens, that is not only failing the young people it is helping now, but also setting that up for the future."

The managers of the scheme have said they are reluctant to comment until anything is formally decided.


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