Business plan revealed for the Calderdale youth project Orangebox

The Orangebox re-opened at Blackledge, Halifax, in August
The Orangebox re-opened at Blackledge, Halifax, in August

Scrutiny board members have been presented with the business plan for the Calderdale youth project Orangebox, which it took on last year after it hit financial difficulties.

Orangebox re-opened at Blackledge, Halifax, in August – early and within budget – following a refurbishment and last night (Wednesday, September 25) Calderdale Council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Board met at the project to discuss the business plan and consider progress in its opening weeks.

They heard its role is far reaching, not only providing programmed events, informal areas, office space for youth-related organisations, performance and visual arts spaces including for drama and dance, music and rehearsal rooms, a recording studio and an IT unit but also enterprise start-up units, a cafe and lounge, a roof garden and a skate park.

It also opens early offering breakfast, showers and changing facilities for young people not living at home.

Previously some board members expressed concerns about the business plan but this has now been laid out accompanied by an assessment of its risks.

The plan indicates that annual running costs over the next five years – rising from £144,500 this year to £156,737 in 2023-24 – are more than the amount Calderdale Council can budget for it, £64,000 each year, so the rest must be produced from income.

Orangebox will remain in deficit this year, expected to be £35,980, but this has been factored into the business plan which is expected to return surpluses in succeeding years of £5,615 in 2020-21, £40,102 in 2021-22, £36,999 in 2022-23 and £33,803 in 2023-24.

Board members heard the model is dependent on income from both exclusive space rental and session room hires, with Project Challenge, the charity working for disadvantaged young people previously based in the building taking a five-year lease to continue their occupancy.

Additional stakeholders have also viewed options for taking office space, and stakeholders are invited to join the Orangebox Advisory Group to help maintain high standards of service provision. The property itself is managed by the council’s estate directorate.

The council’s Children and Young People’s Service Manager Jeff Rafter presented the plan and outlined progress in both the early weeks and looking ahead, including a programme offer being planned for half term and expanding its programme generally too.

Key is that it opens at times young people in Calderdale want to use its services, Mr Rafter said in answering a question from Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) about availability of the washing and changing facilities for young people who needed to use them.

Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) said young people he had spoken to him felt it was a special place and the board would be better able to measure performance by a presentation due next March.

Mr Rafter said the model Orangebox was already working towards was expanding events programmes extending to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as well as existing days.

Youth Council representative Madeleine Partland asked about how Orangebox’s programmes were promoted to young people. Mr Rafter said Orangebox had a web presence, was working on communications with schools. The board also heard the half-term programme for October, for example, was to be subject of a targeted Facebook campaign.

Board chair Coun Colin Raistrick (Ind, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) asked if space was being used effectively, and about safeguarding procedures for young people using the centre and was told a policy was in place.

Coun Amanda Parsons-Hulse (Lib Dem, Warley) asked how young people who lived further out of Halifax could be brought in. Mr Rafter said in the summer holiday transport had been laid on. When the new Sixth Form College opens in Halifax it would be a great place to promote what Ornagebox has to offer, he said.

Orangebox was originally established under the “My Place” central government scheme in 2010, with a brief of providing appropriate and purposeful formal and informal activities for young people with a focus on the teenage and young adult age range as a condition of the funding.

The centre was set up with the grant of £3.8 million, awarded in 2011, but struggled to source funding to meet running expenses, most recently being under the guardianship of the Square Chapel Trust.

If the centre does not meet the remit, the grant funding would have to be repaid.