Warning on youth service cash reductions

DEEP CUTS in local authority youth service budgets, resulting in the closure of youth centres and redundancies for youth workers, threatened to add further pressure to the crime figures, an independent survey warned yesterday.

The survey, carried out by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies' European Research Network (CERN), said local education authorities had exceeded last year's pounds 18,353m government spending target for education by pounds 206m, but tighter capping rules and the removal of sixth-form and further education colleges from local control was forcing councils to show greater restraint this year.

The CERN report said that although some authorities had reduced school budgets, the deepest cuts had taken place in areas where there were no statutory duties - discretionary awards for students, adult and community education, nurseries, and the youth service.

It said the government- funded National Youth Agency had found that nearly two-thirds of English local education authorities had cut their youth service budgets; a quarter of them making cuts in excess of 10 per cent in this financial year.

Warning of the implications for crime, the report added: 'Attention has focused over recent months on the issue of rising crime and the high percentage of crime committed by youth.'

Inspector Peter Whinship, of the Metropolitan Police, was quoted as saying that 'sustaining and enhancing youth provision provides an opportunity to reduce criminal opportunity by removing young people from situations where they are likely to commit, or become victims of, crime.'

CERN added: 'There can be no doubt that the youth service can play an important role in keeping young people out of trouble. With many local authorities cutting back heavily on their youth service provision, the possibility of more youth crime must rise.'