'Abandoned' Leeds teenagers in community centre attack

Angry teenagers damaged a community centre just a week after their neighbourhood wardens were taken off the beat following funding cuts.

Staff and supporters of New Wortley Community Centre in west Leeds were upset at the damage, which saw equipment broken, drinks stolen and spilt, locks broken and a gumball machine ripped off a wall and stolen.

Today community representatives put out a 'we told you so' message to Leeds City Council, which employed the wardens.

Maureen Ingham, who chairs New Wortley Residents' Association,

said: "The children have said it was a protest because they want the wardens back.

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"All our good work is being undone, with one fell swoop. No doubt the children feel like they are being abandoned."

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The YEP reported last summer that people in the area were warning of trouble ahead if the two wardens' roles – normally based at the community centre – were abolished.

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The centre's manager was also made redundant at the end of last year, leaving just one full-time member of staff.

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The wardens change was part of a city-wide overhaul brought on by a 400,000 Government grant running dry.

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Most of the city's 30 wardens were retrained as environmental officers.

Residents believe their removal from the heart of the community, where they had built up a good rapport with youngsters, was a backward step for the neighbourhood – which was once known as one of the most troubled 'sink' estates in the country.

Gary Potter, kitchen manager at New Wortley Community Centre, is now the only key-holder for the building.

He said the centre had been damaged on Wednesday and there had been a break-in a week earlier.

"The children had respect for them (the wardens] and they used to help out people with social problems.

This is an area of high deprivation – they were needed."

Police are now investigating.

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said the warden issue was "unlikely" to have had any relevance to the incident.

"This incident was at a time when a neighbourhood warden would not be present at the centre," she said.

"Police Community Support Officers regularly patrol this area to help keep incidents of this nature to a minimum."

She stressed the former wardens continued to work in the neighbourhood in their new environmental roles.

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