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Teens claim Camden Council censored them for protesting against youth service cuts

PUBLISHED: 16:13 29 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:14 29 January 2016

Picture: Polly Hancock  From left Bridget Okhioigbe (15), Hannah Morris Camden Youth MP, Emma Elkington (19), Ru-Ffel Faissal (17) a volunteer at Gospel Oak Youth Access Point and Cory Rennards (18) also from Gospel Oak Youth Access Point

Picture: Polly Hancock From left Bridget Okhioigbe (15), Hannah Morris Camden Youth MP, Emma Elkington (19), Ru-Ffel Faissal (17) a volunteer at Gospel Oak Youth Access Point and Cory Rennards (18) also from Gospel Oak Youth Access Point

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Young people claim they have been censored by Camden Council for protesting against cuts to youth services at a council meeting this week.

Picture: Polly Hancock  Protestors against the proposed cuts to Camden's youth services on the steps of the Town Hall on Monday.Picture: Polly Hancock Protestors against the proposed cuts to Camden's youth services on the steps of the Town Hall on Monday.

A group of teenagers spoke passionately against proposals to cut £1.6million from youth services to rapturous applause at the Town Hall on Monday – but the camera broadcasting the meeting to the public was turned off for the duration of their speeches.

Camden Council claim this was due to a “misunderstanding” that it did not have the legal right to film the youngsters – despite the fact it did have consent in place.

But the young people, and trade union Unison, still maintain that the council deliberately stifled their voices.

John Shepherd, Camden Unison’s assistant branch secretary, said: “Officially, I can’t say what the council’s motivations might be.

“But these young people were erudite, and passionate, and put forward effective arguments as to how damaging these cuts are.

“All I can say is that the council would rather these views were not heard, especially because these young people had signed consent forms to be filmed, signed by their parents.

“It was not a case of data protection.”

Usually, a recording of the meeting goes on the council’s website soon after it has taken place. But the switch-off means the young people’s speeches are not on the video record.

A council spokeswoman said: “We always take great care when filming young people to protect their privacy and its clear there has been a misunderstanding around filming permissions in this case for which we apologise.

“We will be in touch with the deputation to see what we can do to put this error right and make sure what they told the council receives the appropriate coverage on our site.

“Despite the misunderstanding the views expressed during the deputation were clearly heard by councillors, and will be taken into consideration by councillors, and will be taken into consideration when cabinet make decisions about how best to continue to deliver quality youth services in Camden.

“We do appreciate the young Camden residents who took the time to share their concerns about the proposed cuts to youth funding, which comes as a direct result of severe cuts to our funding from central government.

“We’ll continue to work with young people in our borough to ensure we maintain quality youth services, despite these proposals.”

The council is proposing the youth service savings as part of its drive to plug a £78million funding gap as a result of central government cuts.

The proposals would see the closure of the Gospel Oak Youth Access Point in Queen’s Crescent, Kentish Town, which provides youth support services.

Funding for the COO-L low-cost activities programme for disadvantaged youths would also stop under the plans.

But the Fresh Youth Academy, at Highgate Newtown Community Centre, in Bertram Street, would be redeveloped under the savings bid.

A cabinet meeting on April 6 is due to make a decision on proposals.

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