Youth services suffer over £400m ‘stealth cut’, Labor claims say | Taxes and expenses

Last week’s budget included a stealth cut to funding for youth services worth more than £400million over the next three years, Labor has claimed.

In his budget speech last Wednesday, Rishi Sunak said, “As we improve public services, we are also improving communities – restoring the pride people feel in the places where they call home.

“To do this, we are providing £560million for youth services, enough to fund up to 300 youth clubs across the country.”

However, the Tories had already pledged a £500m youth investment fund in 2019; and the National Citizen Service, which provides volunteering opportunities for young people, has received an average of £178million over the past three years, according to the Labor analysis.

If the NCS continued to be funded at this level and the £500million Youth Investment Fund was additional money, it would total over £1billion over the next three years, nearly double the figure announced by Sunak.

Meanwhile, an analysis of the House of Commons Library carried out for the Labor Party shows that public spending on services for young people in England has been cut by two-thirds in real terms over the past 10 years.

Shadow Youth Minister Cat Smith said: ‘With the Tory cuts year on year, it’s no surprise we’ve seen an increase in anti-social behavior alongside the huge challenge of violent crime and county borders. Youth services prevent serious youth violence that costs taxpayers and ruins young people’s lives.

“Given how much has been stripped from youth services over the past decade by the Tories, this covert government cut is likely to force many local youth organizations to close.”

As MPs continued to debate the budget in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Labor MPs accused Sunak of not having caught up with more than a decade of austerity – comparing his promise of new ‘family centres’ to the more than 500 centers Sure Start scrapped since 2010, for example.

A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport acknowledged that the £560m pledged by Sunak would include the cost of running the pre-existing NCS, which was set up by David Cameron.

“We are committed to giving every child the best start in life and to reaching the next level across the country,” they said. “Last week we announced plans to invest £560m to ensure services for young people receive the support they need. This includes funding the construction or renovation of up to 300 youth facilities in the country’s most deprived areas and supporting the operation of the NCS over the next three years.

The spokesperson also pointed to almost £5billion set aside to help pupils catch up on learning as a result of the pandemic – although this is significantly less than recommended by the adviser’s own of the government on the issue, who resigned in protest.

Sunak’s third budget included a slew of spending promises, as the Tories seek to deliver on their pledge to ‘level up’ neglected parts of the UK; but he also hinted at the prospect of tax cuts ahead of the next election.

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