What’s going on down at Academy Street?

The money difficulties of the Belfast Education and Library Board are well known and proposed cuts of £4m lead has created a cross-party consensus of oppostion. However, the crisis has led to a close examination of all spending and a glaring inequality in youth provision in North Belfast has been highlighted.
Youth centres (directly managed and independent) are a key part of youth service delivery. In the Oldpark area BELB spent £275,030 supporting full and part-time youth facilities in 2005-06. Facilities in Unionist communities received £0.00. The only BELB facility that had operated in a Unionist community in the Oldpark area had been closed in the previous financial year.

Is the imbalance because Oldpark has few Unionists?
Oldpark was 34% Unionist at the last Council elections.

Is the imbalance because Oldpark has no Protestants?
In the last census Oldpark was 31.85% Protetstant by community background.

Is the imbalance because Oldpark’s Protestant population is old?
In the last Census Oldpark’s 16-24 youth population was 27.3% Protestant by community background.

Is the imbalance because there are no centres?
There are a number of BELB accredited voluntary youth and community centres delivering a range of youth activities in Unionist communities. Any requests to BELB for support were always met with the reply “No”.

Is the imbalance because of need?
Oldpark has six wards – Ardoyne, Ballysillan, Cliftonville, Legoniel, New Lodge and Waterworks. All of them except Cliftonville are New TSN areas. Glenbryn, Wheatfield and part of Ballysillan are included by the Neighbourhood Renewal initiative.

It would appear as well as BELB not being able to keep control of its money nor does it seem to be aware/care how it impacts on different communities. How has this unequal situation arisen? How long has this imbalance existed? Will it act to end this inequality by re-allocation? Will extra resources be found? Will there be a cross-party consensus on dealing with this issue?

For those who may question the DUP’s analysis here are the groups and the allocation:
Based in a nationalist community
New Lodge (BELB full time) – £39,536
Mountainhill (BELB part time – Ligoniel) – £21,539
Ardoyne (Voluntary full time) – £68,703
John Paul II (Voluntary full time – Ardoyne)- £61,378
Deanby (Voluntary part time) – £22,291
Holy Family (Voluntary full time – Newington) – £54,245

Based in a unionist community
Top Spot (BELB part time – Ballysillan) £7338 – reallocated as it was closed down.

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