Board reviews comments over supervision of youths

Onchan Commissioners were forced into a public climbdown on Monday after the local authority’s minutes appeared to criticise a youth facility.

The board had discussed Kenyon’s, a youth charity based in the former butcher’s shop on the corner of Main Road and Church Road, during its meeting on September 22.

The minutes said: ‘It was felt that the youths using the facility were not effectively supervised, no membership was charged and no membership registration [was maintained].’

Representatives from Kenyon’s attended Monday night’s commissioners’ meeting after writing to the board about the comment.

In the letter, Kenyon’s Cafe chairman Martin Macfarlane said: ‘I am somewhat saddened to read publicly that members felt “youths using the facility were not effectively supervised”.

‘I treat concerns of this nature very seriously and shall always investigate such a claim where there is sufficient basis to do so.’

While the cafe does not have a membership fee, he said, young people who regularly visit the facility are asked to complete a membership form annually.

He asked for any member who has such concerns to contact him directly.

The letter was originally up for discussion in private during Monday’s meeting of Onchan Commissioners, but member Rob Callister persuaded his colleagues to address it in public.

Mr Callister said that the board should either be able to back up such a statement with evidence or apologise.

‘I am distancing myself from what was said in the minutes,’ he said.

Robin Turton pointed out that the board had agreed and signed the minutes for the meeting and that the comment could not be retracted.

However, the board heard that the comment might not have been the view of of all members.

John Quaye suggested that the board need simply write another statement.

They agreed to the sentence: ‘After further information the board has no reason to believe that the facility is run in an unacceptable manner.’

After the meeting, Mr Macfarlane told the Manx Independent: ‘The commissioners’ initial comments came as a complete shock as, to my knowledge, it’s been over 12 months since any commissioner last visited during a drop-in session. I’m not sure how they could have made that claim.

‘It’s fairly damaging for us to have a statement like that in the public domain.’

He defended the work of the charity, which was first established in 2001 and acts as a drop-in centre for Onchan’s young people. It now offers three sessions a week during term-time. He said: ‘It’s being used more than ever now. At the moment the place is buzzing.’

The spat comes at a time when Kenyon’s faces an uncertain future. The building is owned by the commissioners, who voted to sell the property in 2013 as part of a review of the authority’s commercial properties.

The building is still not on the market and no other details have been made public.

Once their current lease expires in July 2015, Mr Macfarlane said that the charity may have to relocate or attempt to raise £100,000 to buy the freehold.

He said: ‘We’re trying to find out what they plan to do with us when they sell the property, but right now we have no information.

‘We’re caught in a situation where we don’t know what to do.

‘Do we follow the route of trying to raise £100,000 to buy the building, or hold out that the commissioners will work with us to find an alternative?

‘It’s frustrating as we need to know these answers now.’