YOUNG people and youth service staff in Cheshire are being put at risk by the 'Thatcherite' ambitions of the ruling Tory county council, a senior opposition figure has claimed.
Labour group deputy leader, Crewe councillor Peter Nurse's comments followed a highly charged budget meeting at County Hall on Thursday, when councillors were picketed by protesters on their way to decide the fate of the county's youth service.
Under Tory plans, the service would be outsourced to the Government-backed Connexions service, but councillors failed to reach a decision, ending the meeting with a split 24 to 24 vote.
Cllr Nurse, speaking after the meeting, said he believed that Conservative plans were purely about money, and not the good of the service.
'The Conservative proposal is about staff reductions, pure old-style Thatcherism,' he said.
Opening the debate, Cllr Nurse described the outsourcing as a 'mistake, and one that will be regretted'.
He said Connexions did not have a track record in the community, and said it had a difficult relationship with the voluntary youth service and lacked accountability and visibility.
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Sue Proctor also opposed the controversial plans.
She said: 'I believe in public services, governed and delivered and accountable to public bodies. Many councils are
now learning that 'privatising' services doesn't always bring the benefits they thought.'
Last week the county council issued statements to the press congratulating the work of its youth services following a government inspection.
An official for the Community and Youth Workers Union (CYWU) said he hoped councillors would recognise the union's concerns.
He added: 'This is an important issue as it will affect every teenager in the county.'