Fears are mounting that the Government is planning to slash much-needed cash to tackle youth offending, despite London being in the grip of a knife crime epidemic.
HuffPost UK has learned that ministers have failed to confirm funding for the Youth Justice Board (YBJ) for this year, despite the news being due weeks ago.
The YJB funds specialist teams of youth workers who spend time in communities helping children and young people turn their backs on crime.
Central government funding for youth offending teams has been halved since 2010, from £145m in 2010/11 to £72m in 2017/18 – and concern is now building that the next pot of money could be smaller still.
Justice Secretary David Gauke should have confirmed the funding settlement well ahead of the financial year beginning this month, but it has emerged the cash will not be announced until after the local elections take place.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has said the delay shows the Government to be “desperately weak on the causes of crime”.
The revelations came as the Met Police launched its 60th murder investigation in 2018, after a 30-year-old man was shot dead at Queensbury Tube station on Tuesday night.
In a memo to staff, Colin Allar, chief executive of the YJB, said: “I am still waiting for confirmation of our budget and so I’m afraid that I can’t confirm what the grants to youth offending teams (YOTs) will be.
“I recognise that this makes things difficult for you, but do want to assure you that in my discussions with the Ministry of Justice I have clearly set out the challenges faced by the sector and the need for this early resolution.”
Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced details of the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy last month, but no new officers or cash were included as part of the plan.
Khan said: “The Tories have been desperately weak on crime – and this is yet another example of them being desperately weak on the causes of crime too.
“The only people who are responsible for violent crimes are the criminals. And we need a properly funded police service to target them.”
The London Mayor said he would be investing in projects to give young people a path away from crime, but said he couldn’t solve the problem alone. “The Government must reverse cuts to the police and preventative services which have undoubtedly made it much more difficult to tackle this scourge.”
Youth Offending Teams are funded by central government and local councils. Central government funding is administered by the Youth Justice Board (YJB), who receive a direct grant from the Ministry of Justice.
Richard Burgon, Shadow Justice Secretary, said: “Youth Offending Teams have a vital role to play in preventing our young people becoming offenders or victims of youth crime.
“Instead of slashing their budgets, as the Tories have done in recent years, funds should have been focused on improving prevention work to make all our communities safer.
“There are now concerns that this delay is a prelude to yet more cuts. The government needs to undo the damage done by these deep cuts and urgently provide extra funding for youth offending teams.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the funding would be confirmed “shortly”.
He said: “The number of children entering the criminal justice system for the first time continues to fall year-on-year, with local authorities playing a key role in helping them turn their backs on crime.
“Last year, we gave the Youth Justice Board £72m to allow local authorities to provide the best possible services for children, and we will shortly confirm funding for the next financial year.”