A ROW has broken out over the timing of an election leaflet publicising money spent on improving services for young people in Chorley rural villages.

Last week, council chiefs announced a plan to give £12,000 to chiefs of the Chorley Inspire Youth Zone to go out into local communities to run activities in the outlying areas of the borough such as Brindle and Hoghton, Lostock and Eccleston.

However, leader of the Opposition, Cllr Martin Boardman has hit back at the news.

He argues the Labour ruling party pledged no money to the Youth Zone in their budget in February while the Conservatives pledged to ‘improve the borough-wide leisure offer for young people by creating an Outreach from our Youth Zone.’

Cllr Boardman said:  “The Inspire Youth Zone is a huge success and a great resource for the youth of Chorley, this is something we have unilaterally supported with our Labour colleagues, however it is clear from the first years membership figures that the facility is being utilised by the lucky ones who can make their own way to the Youth Zone or those who live in close proximity to it.

“We highlighted this risk at the end of 2018 hence why we specifically identified an Outreach project within our Alternate Corporate Strategy and funding to support this work.

“We find it questionable why Labour Chorley Council have now, at this time, decided to fund a project for which they had no ideas for, but which could provide support to the Youth groups in the rural areas such as Eccleston and Mawdesley, at a time when there is a By-Election for a vacant Borough Council seat in the ward.

“During the local elections earlier in the year I made clear my intentions to improve youth services and provide local activities for our teenagers and young adults in our rural ward.

“Although we are sure this funding is welcome by Inspire it will not provide facilities in the rural areas, it will not provide transport, it will only raise awareness of the already established Youth Zone in Chorley Town Centre.”

The local council By-Election for Eccleston and Mawdesley ward is on July 4.

Only two candidates are standing for election, Conservative candidate Val Caunce and Labour candidate Martin Fisher.

Meanwhile, Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council said: "As a Council we have responded directly to requests from various villages and their local councillors to extend the excellent work that the Youth Zone is undertaking to engage young people across the Borough in positive and enriching activities.

“Chorley Labour Group is delighted to support that work in all villages equally and are somewhat surprised and disappointed that our Conservative opposition are questioning this support for some of our more rural area's which are experiencing problems with anti-social behaviour and lack of services due to the Conservative governments swingeing cuts.

“They are unhappy when we spend money to tackle issues, and also when we don't spend money! I think it is time they decided exactly what they stand for and look to support the excellent proposals made by the Council and Youth Zone working together to help our young people."

Cllr Boardman added: "The Conservative councillors are not questioning the excellent work the youth zone undertake, nor are we questioning support to the rural areas however the aims of the project put before councillors last week are to make more young people aware of Inspire and to encourage them to become members and in the councils own words to “Drive up overall membership”.

"We believe the way to engage with and provide for the youth in rural areas is to provide an outreach programme of satellite youth zones or youth clubs in areas where our youth can get to, to use our village and church halls and to provide transport once or twice a week to help the youngsters get to Inspire in Chorley.

"This council has significant underspends from last year and we believe the scope of this project nor the £12,000 is not enough to deliver real change in our rural areas.

"However it does look good on an election leaflet."

The youth zone, which is on Chapel Street across from the bus station, opened in May last year and peaked at over 5,400 members in its inaugural year.

It is a purpose-built facility for young people aged 8-19, and up to 25 for those with disabilities.

Janine Blythe, Chief Executive of Inspire Youth Zone said "As a charity working to 'inspire' and shape the futures of Chorley's next generation, we want to do the best we can for young people and so we are delighted to be asked by Chorley Council to work in areas across Chorley to engage with young people where they live.

"The finer details have yet to be agreed, but expect to see the Inspire Minibus out and about in villages all across the area over the coming months – if you do – pop over and talk to us!"