Kenilworth’s mayor has claimed he is ‘on a mission’ to help disengaged young people after incidents with drugs and knives have left youth workers fearing for their safety.
Cllr Mike Hitchins announced the formation of a Young People’s Forum - which he said was still a work in progress - to try and find out from young people themselves how the town can help them.
Cllr Hitchins (Con, Park Hill) had been spending time with some of the Kenilworth Centre’s youth workers to see first-hand what the problems were. He spoke about his experience at a town council meeting on Thursday September 13.
He said: “Recently, they (the youth workers) became very concerned for their own safety when they witnessed two young males with knives chasing another one across Abbey Fields.
“Last week, I bumped into three young males in School Lane, and it was fairly obvious that one of them had just received a severe beating.
“Last Friday night (September 7), we saw a group of around 20 young people under the bridge in Bridge Street. What we thought was a pile of coats on the ground was actually an unconscious young male.
“The ambulance and police came and took him off to hospital. He was alleged to have taken prescription antidepressants and had been smoking weed.
“From recent experiences, Kenilworth must get a grip on this situation. Standing by doing nothing is not an option.”
Cllr Hitchins said the forum, which still in its early stages, would ask young people about what problems they currently face, and would encourage them to make suggestions about how best to tackle them.
He rounded off his speech by saying: “I’m on a bit of a mission, and I intend to do the best I can because we have to do something very, very quickly.”
Cllr Hitchins also spoke about the problems at a meeting organised by Kenlworth Rotary on Monday September 10, which brought together several Kenilworth organisations to see what they could do to help.
It was felt that the organisations could work together more to possibly fund some of the ideas raised at the forum.
Cllr Richard Dickson (Lib Dem, St John’s), a trustee at the Kenilworth Centre, supported the forum, but said it was important not to do things ‘for’ young people, but to do things ‘with’ them.
Leader of Kenilworth Town Council Cllr John Cooke asked Cllr Hitchins if the Kenilworth Centre youth workers needed more hours and people. Cllr Hitchins replied: “Beyond any shadow of a doubt, they need more hours.”
And Cllr Richard Hales (Con, Park Hill), a governor at Kenilworth School, said the forum was a good idea, but felt it was important not to demonise all young people.
He said: “I do feel sometimes that the youth in this town get a harsh vibe from people. If we see a group of teenagers, they’re automatically seen as drug takers or causing trouble.
“We are not perfect in the town, but its important to have a balanced opinion.”