Warning ‘reckless’ funding cuts could fuel surge in youth crime

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Funding for young people’s services has been slashed by nearly 60 per cent in parts of Yorkshire, it can be revealed today amid fears “reckless” cuts could send youth offending rates soaring.

Council spending on services such as Connexions advice centres, youth work, substance misuse and teenage pregnancy support has plummeted by nearly a third overall in real terms across the region since 2010-11, budget figures show.

Labour’s shadow home affairs team under Yvette Cooper, MP for Pontefract and Castleford, has warned of a “substantial risk” of more children and teenagers turning to crime as the cuts begin to bite. The most drastic funding cuts for young people’s services have been in Rotherham, where funding was cut by 59 per cent from £7.2 million in 2010-11 to £2.9m in 2011-12.

The cuts there were more than double the national average.

Spending has also more than halved in Sheffield, where it fell from £17.2m to £7.7m and in Hull, where the budget for young people’s services has been slashed to £5.5m from £11.7m last year.

Only Barnsley increased its spending, which was up 11 per cent to £6.6m this year.

Nationally, spending on youth services fell by 27 per cent in real terms this year.

Shadow Home Office Minister Diana Johnson said that a £4.2m drain on funding for community safety partnerships could also trigger a surge in youth offending rates. The groups, which bring together agencies including police, fire and health services in a bid to reduce crime and tackle its underlying causes, have had their budgets cut by 60 per cent by the Home Office over the two years to 2012-13. In Yorkshire, they will receive £4.2m less in total than they did in 2010-11.

Miss Johnson, Labour MP for Hull North, said: “These figures raise serious questions about the lack of thought the government’s given to the practical consequences of their reckless cuts. Councils being left in an impossible position by government cuts which go too far too fast mean youth services are being hit hard.

“Add to that the drastic and probably counter-productive cuts to the community safety fund - meaning thousands of projects and programmes working hard to keep young people away from a life of crime are now at risk - and there is a substantial risk of increases in youth offending.”

Funding for community safety partnerships in West Yorkshire has been cut from £3.2m to £1.3m, while those in South Yorkshire will receive £651,000 this year, down from £1.6m in 2010-11. In Humberside, funding has been slashed to £538,000 from £1.3m and in North Yorkshire, it has fallen to £373,000 from £925,000.

Labour is warning that the cuts, coupled with a 20 per cent reduction in police budgets, are an “awful hand” to be dealt to whoever is elected to the region’s four Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) posts on November 15.

Miss Johnson said: “With almost 2,000 police officers being cut from Yorkshire’s forces, and the rug being pulled from beneath the feet of the many fantastic organisations working day in day out with young people often in difficult circumstances, it is clearer than ever why it is crucial people vote for Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidates next week who will protect our communities and stand up against this out of touch Tory-led government.”

PCCs will replace police authorities in 41 areas of England and Wales in what has been described as the biggest shake-up in policing for almost 50 years.

Successful candidates will be paid a salary of between £65,000 and £100,000 and will have the power to hire and fire the chief constable of their force.

They will also be responsible
for setting the force budget, deciding on local policing priorities 
and reporting annually on progress.

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