Councillors have voted against moving to the next stage of the creation a proposed Youth and Community Development Service.

Andover Town Council narrowly voted in favour of the position on January 26, with mayor Richard Rowles having to use his casting vote to pass the proposals. At a council meeting on March 24, councillors were asked to consider a specification for the role’s responsibilities.

However, following concerns over the scope of the role, and its costs, councillors voted against accepting the report.

The proposed Youth and Community Development Service role was originally brought to council during its precept meeting in January. It was proposed by Cllrs Rowles and Jason Sangster, and passed following a deadlocked vote.

On Wednesday, March 24, councillors were asked to approve a report setting out the specification of what the job would do, including encouraging recreational activities, developing community projects, and developing projects to get town residents into work.

Cllr Robin Hughes spoke first on the proposal, raising concerns the role was not budgeted for. Confusion had arisen from the precept meeting, where the precept was set, then the youth and communities role was approved, before the budget was set afterwards.

He said: “Prior to the setting of the budget I had no knowledge of this item or where it was coming from, so the budget as presented did not have this item in it.”

He added: “If this is correct, we have a £35,000 hole in our budget.”

The council’s proper officer, Caroline, said that there was “not a big problem” and something that could be resolved later.

“For now, I think we need to take it that the council intends to spend this money as there is a resolution to do so,” she said, “and tidy up where it is coming from at a future meeting. If you decide that you do not want to do that tonight this cannot go forward.”

She added: “It’s not a big problem in my view.”

Cllr David Coole then spoke, querying whether other organisations providing support in Andover and Hampshire had been consulted.

In response, Cllr Rowles said: “It’s brilliant there are various organisations in Andover that are doing stuff but what we’re suggesting is that the town council can play a crucial role in producing a report that will be public.

“That gap analysis and all that research can be put out, not just to help existing group fulfil needs and help them work together on solving problems, but also, if there are things they can’t do, maybe we can support them in completing their short, medium and long term goals.

He continued: “We can either moan about stuff as a council or we can get the job done and help our town. When we vote on this, that is the thing you need to have in your mind and frankly nothing else matters.”

Cllr David Treadwell, while agreeing with the direction of the service, was concerned over the costs of the role, saying an equivalent post in the private sector “wouldn’t get paid £35,000”.

“This £35,000 could support them [the community] directly,” he said. “I don’t want to see this money spent on another report. I want to see something happen, not just another pile of paperwork.”

Cllr Rowles replied: “Until you’ve got someone who is a proper expert in this field to produce this report we can’t move onto the next stage and pay people to do this work without knowing what the problems are and the outcome of this will be to have a super duper document to support them.”

Regarding costs, he added: “If 7 bids come in and they’re all £35,000 I’ll eat my hat.”

Cllr Sangster argued that costs shouldn’t be the focus of the discussion.

“If we’ve got the funds available to use on our own town why not use them?” he asked. “This is just a starting point, as opposed to actually authorising the money to be spent, and it’s an improvement the town needs.

“It’s a good move to improve our youth in a troubled climate and I think we need to push forward. We can’t act without having any data and we need to have a plan of action.”

He added: “I really think we should just push forward with this motion. It’s good for the town, it’s good for the youth, and why wouldn’t we want to do that?”

However, while agreeing that support of the youth is important, Cllr Luigi Gregori raised concerns over the report as it stood, especially a perceived extension of the role towards non-youth projects.

He said: “I entirely agree with Cllr Sangster and the motion we agreed was about youth and youth within our community. We’ve now got a report that extends this to just about everything including economic activities for the over 50s. It has become very wide ranging.”

Cllr Barbara Long agreed, saying: “At the beginning of this report it absolutely states the council agreed to a Community Youth Development Officer, not a Community and Youth Development Officer.

“I do think the youth of the town desperately need further help and there’s not a lot out there. There’s quite a lot for the over-50s.”

According to the agenda of the meeting of January 26 when the role was agreed, however, do state that the vote was on a Community and Youth Development Officer, rather than a Community Youth Development Officer, with a focus on a range of community groups.

However, this latter title was recorded in the minutes of the meeting, omitting the ‘and’, and was subsequently copied to the report of the March 24 meeting.

Following debate, a vote was held on accepting the report. Cllrs Sangster and Rowles voted in favour, with all others voting against. To proceed, a new specification will need to be brought before and approved by the council.