Fears over future over Diss centre and youth band

FEARS have been raised for the future of a popular youth band, which could be left homeless in less than two months, if a community centre in Diss is shut.

The Diss Youth Resource Base is facing the axe as a result of Norfolk County Council plans to scrap its youth services to save money.

But the proposed closure of the facility also puts in doubt the future of the South Norfolk Youth Symphonic Band (SNYSB), which rehearses and stores its musical instruments at the building in Shelfanger Road.

Officials from the group, which has been going since 1974 and performs at charitable concerts across the area, said it would prove difficult to find a new home if the resource centre closes.

Norfolk County Councillors will set the authority's budget on February 14, which could see the end of the council's �4m a year youth services. It is part of wider plans to shed 750 full-time jobs and save �155m over the next three years.

The proposals could mean that the Diss resource base could shut as soon as March 31.

Mike Booty, founder and director of SNYSB, said it was a 'kick in the teeth' and it would be hard to find a venue with a rehearsal hall and large storage space in such a short period of time.

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'We are up the gum tree. It has been all done so quietly and it could be pushed under the carpet.'

'The recommendation has been made. It is a rubberstamping exercise. We are going to do all we can, but the time we have left is limited.'

'There will be nowhere for us to go. It is a youth and community centre and it is there for the benefit of the community and we need someone like the town council or district council to take over the stewardship to keep organisations like us going,' he said.

Mr Booty said SNYSB had 60 to 80 children using the facility every week and the band performs 30 to 40 charitable concerts a year.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said the Diss centre, which houses the area's youth services, costs around �25,000 a year to run and its future use will be considered if it closes.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services, said: 'We are facing a funding gap of at least �155m over the next three years and this means looking at how we can reshape services and scale back the volume of what we do, becoming a smaller council and looking to communities to take on more responsibilities. This includes looking at services that are not mandatory, such as the �4m we spend on youth services every year, including Diss Youth Centre.'