Further to this letter, I am picking up real concerns about the future from within the youth and early years sectors, including Westminster Council implying that all direct funding may be withdrawn if the Spending Review outcome is as bleak as predicted (although the extent to which Westminster in particular may see any offsetting benefit from the retention of business rates remains to be seen).
As we know, the users of the youth service are disproportionately drawn from the most disadvantaged members of the community, and already face serious challenges- including the implications of living in the area with the highest population density in the country, and with some of the highest costs for leisure, recreation and other activities.
As it is, centres such as the Stowe and Feathers are already working closely with the Gangs unit in helping to respond to the gang/serious youth violence challenge, which may not involve more than a few hundred young people but which is a hugely expensive and complex problem when left unchecked. There is evidence locally and across Westminster that the progress made over the period 200111/2014 may be slipping back and we need to be extremely careful that we keep on tip of the issue- not least because massively reduced neighbourhood police capacity means it is harder to manage on the streets than it was. Youth centres are also an important resource within our diverse and multi-racial borough in helping us tackle extremism.
Prolonged uncertainty over finances and commissioning make it harder to retain safe and exacerbate the stop-start approach to youth work which we know is so profoundly unhelpful.
Could the Council, at the very least, take early action to bring together all the key players in the sector together with officers and business partners to facilitate a more co-ordinated approach to youth services? Leaving everything till after the Spending Review wastes valuable planning weeks.
Thank you very much
Karen Buck MP