Derbyshire’s Chief Constable has refused to meet with youngsters to discuss the importance of OzBox.
Shannon Long wrote to Mick Creedon on behalf of children to arrange a meeting about the scheme, which will be axed on January 31 because of budget cuts.
The youngsters wanted to tell the top cop why OzBox – which provides free fitness sessions to young people in a bid to keep them healthy and off the street – means so much to them.
But in a letter seen by the Derbyshire Times, Deputy Chief Constable Alan Goodwin told Ms Long: “It will not be possible to meet with the Chief Constable regarding this but he has asked that I reply to you on his behalf.
“Let me be clear that there is no suggestion that the OzBox scheme has not added some value to the lives of those who have had involvement with it since it began some ten years ago.
“Had that not been the case, then it would not have been allowed to continue for as long as it has.
“However, given the unprecedented financial challenges facing the force now and in the years ahead, every single aspect of what we currently do and where we are spending our budget has had to be rigorously examined to ensure that we concentrate our resources in those areas of greatest priority.
“Continuation of the OzBox scheme was not considered to be of sufficiently high priority to justify the level of investment required at the expense of core policing activities such as tackling serious crime issues like domestic violence, drugs and child sexual exploitation.
“I appreciate that you will have a different view as to whether OzBox should be regarded as a priority for funding, perhaps at the expense of all those core policing activities listed above, but this is not a view shared by the force.
“Please do not regard this as in any way disrespectful of your opinion but more a reflection of the tough decisions that have to be made in the current financial climate, with the protection of the wider public at the heart of those decisions.
“Put simply, to retain the OzBox scheme, even in some form of scaled down version from what we have now, would mean exposing vulnerable victims within Derbyshire’s communities to a greater level of risk than is acceptable. Therefore, the delivery of core policing functions to all has to take precedence over providing free fitness sessions for some.
“Unfortunately, OzBox will close down later this month.”
OzBox has been funded by Derbyshire Constabulary and Derbyshire County Council since 2003 and was supported by money from the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) for the past three years.
The BLF money runs out soon and police and council chiefs are unable to continue funding the scheme because they are having to make “devastating” budget cuts.