Friday, February 2, 2018

News: Rotherham Youth Enterprise under threat

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Tailored business support for young people in Rotherham could be coming to an end after Rotherham Council put forward proposals to cut the Rotherham Youth Enterprise (RYE) service.

Sitting within Rotherham Council's over-spending Children and Young People's Services directorate, RYE provides self-employment support and advice for young adults in the area. They encourage young people (up to the age of 30) to explore business ideas and develop the skills and knowledge necessary to be their own boss.

Dating back to 1986, RYE has been credited with helping to achieve some of the highest business survival rates in the UK. In particular, it offers favourable business incubation rates and accommodation for start-ups in the town, as well as tailored business coaching for young entrepreneurs.

The service was traditionally wholly grant funded but constant Government cuts in recent years has seen Rotherham Council use revenue funding to keep the valuable service going.

The team currently employs seven staff and proposals have come forward as part of the Council's budget setting for 2018/19 to cut the team down to two staff. Initial proposals were for the service to cease completely, saving the authority around £180,000.

The remaining staff would be responsible for careers and enterprise which includes pioneering work on creating an Enterprise Adviser Network to connect schools and colleges with employers in meaningful ways.

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RYE has been closely linked to the award-winning Rotherham Ready programme which launched in 2005 and set out to transform attitudes and achievement amongst local school children, by introducing enterprise and entrepreneurship into their schools' curriculum.

Rotherham Ready, which has since grown into a social enterprise, and Rotherham Youth Enterprise, played leading roles in Rotherham being named The Most Enterprising Place in Britain by the Government's Department for Business Innovation and Skills in 2010.

Jackie Frost, the manager of the project, was awarded with the Queen's Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2009.

Cllr. Gordon Watson, deputy leader of Rotherham Council and Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "The leader [Cllr. Chris Read] has taken an interest in this, and having discussed with RiDO, there are synergies between this youth enterprise and the enterprise advice that RiDO give. Obviously it must be very similar advice, you don't go for advice at 24 and a half and six months later it is a completely different set of advice.

"It was believed that there would be a useful point in keeping a small part of this service. This also keeps part of the grant from central Government. Over the years this service was supported by Government grants that have been chipped away and we have continued to support it.

"It has been an award-winning service, it has done good things. It's not like we are saying, "if you take this away, you won't notice anything." It's just that we have got certain statuary obligations as a local authority and this is not statutory."

The responsibility to provide statuary careers advice was transferred away from local councils to the schools themselves around five years ago.

The proposals mean that the support for businesses element of the service would fall to RiDO, the regeneration arm of Rotherham Council, which co-ordinates business support in the borough through the Launchpad and Mighty initiatives and runs four successful business incubation centres.

It is not yet clear what would happen to RYE's centre in Treeton (pictured) or if favourable rates from young businesses will still be available.

RiDO itself earned a reprieve in 2016 budget discussions when £160,000 a year was found for the next three years representing the replacement of lost grant funding with revenue budget.

Ian Thomas, the strategic director of Children's Services at Rotherham Council, was also called in by councillors to explain the proposals to cut five staff from RYE, saving around £130,000. He told them: "I'm a fan of this service because in addition to those ten businesses start ups [each year], thousands of people have been worked with in terms of careers events linking to the business community. The business coaches are really, really good and it has received national acclaim in the past.

"It was grant funded. And it was great when we had the money, but not now."

Rotherham Council has proposed series of budget options for 2018/19, to meet a further funding shortfall of £15m, on top of £162m worth of savings which have already had to be made since 2010.

On the service in the future, Thomas added: "I think that aligning this service with RiDO, with its significant links to business, will give us a fighting chance of ensuring that the young people that have access to these employers can continue to do so.

"The added value for me is about that connectivity with business. Access to the world of work, access to opportunity and experience of workplaces, connecting children with employers early so that they are ready and prepared for that world of work, ensuring that they've got an expansive range of options when they leave education."

When asked about capacity within RiDO to deliver the business support element of RYE, Thomas admitted: "Having spoken to RiDO colleagues in developing this paper, the answer is no, they don't have that scope, or the capacity. They don't work with young people and members will know that RiDO has been cut back successively over the years due to the reduction in Government grant funding."

The Overview and Scrutiny Management Board at Rotherham Council agreed to endorse the proposal to reduce RYE from seven to two staff. The Council will consider its full budget proposals later in the year.

RYE website
RiDO website

Images: RYE / Google Maps

4 comments:

Anonymous,  February 2, 2018 at 2:04 PM  

Can you please conduct a report on all the business that RYE have helped over the years and just how much corporation tax these pay each year and show that this amount easily covers the RYE running costs?. Then there is the jobs these businesses have created and the income tax they take that way?

There is no way my business would be as successful as it is or still running if it wasn't for the support I received from RYE.

I pay a fortune in taxes and it goes through me knowing its not being put back into RYE and the team that helped create my job and my employees.

Anonymous,  February 2, 2018 at 3:02 PM  

I know these decisions are hard to make but this is just the wrong thing to do. It seems very short-sighted.

Hundreds of businesses would not be here in Rotherham if it wasn't for the support of RYE and their business coaches.

How many businesses and jobs have been created over the years? How much now comes back to the council through business rates?

Anonymous,  February 2, 2018 at 11:50 PM  

This is an appallingly shortsighted decision. Whilst the protection of children is the most important thing in the world and everyone welcomes the latest ofsted ruling in Rotherham that it has improved what many fail to appreciate in Ian Thomas's constant drive for self promotion is the huge amount of funding that has been wasted on his watch and led to inevitable funding decisions like this as a result. Members have failed to say no to him or scrutinise his spending decisions closely enough. Hundreds of thousands have been wasted on ineffective external consultants. Yes it needed investment but in the right areas. Unfortunately if you allow an idiot to throw enough money at everything then yes services will improve but it will not be sustainable improvement in the longer term. Shame!

Luke February 9, 2018 at 11:31 AM  

Very sad news. The guidance we received (and continue to receive) has been instrumental in making our business a success.

The work they do in the community and in local business is something rotherham can be proud of. Can't praise the work of rye enough, this is a sad day for Rotherham!

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