PROTESTERS say proposed cuts to the borough's youth services are a "shattering blow to young people" and will lead to the "total destruction" of the service.

Cash-strapped Dudley Council insists there are no plans to close youth centres and will instead make savings of £200,000 by axing around 50 per cent of its part-time youth service workforce, with team leaders and detached youth workers up for the chop.

Cuts would also see the time youngsters spend socialising and making use of facilities at youth centres slashed, with sessions set to be cut by almost 50 per cent, from 123 down to 60.

Members of Unison and Unite who lined the steps of Dudley Council House on Friday to voice their dismay believe the redundancies will sound the death knell for the borough's youth services.

Demonstrators called for the council to rethink the proposed changes but children's services boss Councillor Tim Crumpton said reductions in budgets have left no alternative.

Cllr Crumpton said the lack of funding means the council must look at delivering services differently and work closely with third sector and community groups to run additional youth centre sessions.

He added: "The proposed changes to the staffing structure, which are currently out to consultation with the staff, will not affect young people accessing good, quality services as the proposed model is based on harnessing the potential of the voluntary and community sector by working closer with them to deliver more services.

“The youth service currently employs around 100 members of staff and the proposals would create savings of £200,000, the equivalent of six full time jobs.

"It is horrible and I apologise for any distress caused but I can assure young people and parents that providing good quality youth work remains at the heart of our plans, regardless of who is delivering the service.”

Unite national officer Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said the union, which represents the majority of Dudley’s youth workers, has called for urgent talks to prevent the "total destruction" of the borough's youth services.

He said: “If you remove these workers from this service, there will be no youth centres. Thousands of young people will be left with nowhere to go once the youth centres shut.

"Dudley’s young people are being made scapegoats for an economic crisis not of their making. The council’s proposed cuts to youth service provision are a shattering blow to young people in Dudley facing employment, housing and personal issues.

"Again we see how the government’s cruel austerity agenda hits the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our communities. Unite will continue to campaign to demand that the borough's councillors and decision-makers re-think and listen to alternative suggestions for a better youth service benefiting young people and the community.”

Steve Beardsmore, branch secretary for Dudley Unison, said staff were feeling demoralised and added: "Voluntary groups have their place but they shouldn't be used to replace permanent professional staff."