Norwich youth project decision made behind closed doors

Questions are being asked as to why a decision to withdraw funding for a vital and successful youth project was made behind closed doors by an unelected panel.

Politicians from all parties have visited and been full of praise for Future Education and Future Projects on Motum Road.

However, when it came to a decision about the scheme's future they were not consulted.

In fact, some county councillors only found out that it had lost funding after they were contacted by Future or due to the Evening News campaign.

The loss of the contract has put the long-term existence of the alternative school Future Education under threat and could have an impact on other Future Projects.

The decision to withdraw the alternative academic contract, which Future provides, was made by a panel, whose names will not be released by the council.

This was chaired by the council's additional needs strategy and commissioning manager after the bids for all alternative education came in at more expensive than budgeted for.

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Ian Johnson, chairman of the trustees of Future Projects, raised concerns about the selection process.

He said: 'We cannot understand why an evaluation panel - which was setup to evaluate tender bids, was put in the position of having to make a decision which has such far reaching implications - whilst being bound by a rigid tender procedure.

'We feel that such a decision should have been taken by councillors who would have a broader understanding of the wider implications of that decision. 'Allowing the evaluation panel to make this decision restricted the council's ability to step back, look at the bigger picture, and identify what's best for the people of Norfolk.

'The result of this decision is that there will now be less alternative specialist provision. Providers such as Future Projects will be put at risk and the council itself will face higher costs for fewer services.'

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said members of the council had been told about the outcome of the procurement process and withdrawal of the academic lot in July.

Children's services councillor Alison Thomas said tendering issues and decisions on where to place individual children have to be delegated to officers to ensure the day-to-day running of services can continue unabated.

She said: 'We have hundreds of contracts with voluntary sector and independent providers for a range of services across children's services, including alternative education, foster care, residential homes and other areas. These decisions are not political and are based on ensuring there is adequate provision to meet the needs of particular groups of young people. The framework within which procurement decisions are made has been agreed by council and this forms the standing orders within which officers must work.

'We are currently going through a period of considerable change in the organisation as we look at how we can work even more efficiently and ensure that