Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, visited the Caldicottt Centre in Hitchin on Friday, the 17th November, to meet young people who use the centre.

    Peter Lilley said: “The debate is all about how best to help young people in this area so I thought it sensible to start by talking to young people who actually use the centre. I was impressed by the value they placed on it and their dismay at any prospect of closure without adequate replacement. Parents locally have also emphasised to me the importance they attach to providing facilities for young people to engage in constructive activities and to meet in a benign environment. I saw boxers box, heard singers sing, helped young people do handicrafts and talked to young people of all ages.

    “Earlier in the day I also met some of the Trustees of the Hitchin Youth Trust. They emphasised their desire to help the clubs who use the Caldicott Centre find new premises and their commitment to meeting relocation and subsequent running costs. They believe that the numbers from the charitable clubs who use the facilities do not justify premises of this value and cost. Clearly for them the viability of the centre hinges on the issue of numbers. But I could not judge that issue from my visit which did not pretend to show a typical evening.

    “I emphasised to the Trustees that the debate had not been helped by their lack of openness. So I strongly urged them, in the interest of a more constructive debate, to be as open as possible and wherever feasible to make public the professional advice on which they are acting.

    “I have also received a proposed Business Plan prepared for the Hitchin Boxing Club which puts forward costed alternatives to the Trustee?s scheme. I hope they, too, will release this generally as a contribution to the debate.

    “It is very sad that different charities who all exist to help young people should have fallen out in this way. At the very least everyone should strive to ensure there is no reduction in the facilities available to young people in this area. To achieve that, we need more openness and less acrimony.

    “I shall do everything I can to achieve a solution which protects the interests of those who really matter ? the young people of Hitchin and North Herts.