Revealed: Islington Council’s youth service budget cuts

Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Islington Council

Islington Council’s universal youth service budget has decreased by almost £2 million in the last five years, prompting warnings the loss could wreck council efforts to stop people joining gangs.

The council’s budget for “universal” youth services in 2017/18 and 2018/19 was £3,723,349, down from £5,686,272 in 2012/13, a drop of £1,962,923.

The figures were revealed after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the Islington Citizen, and breaks down the council’s total youth service budget since 2011/12 into “universal” and “targeted” services.

The “targeted” services budget – which covers help for young offenders, families and drug addicts – was frozen at £679,800 in 2015/16 and 2016/17, and frozen again at £1,569,437 in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

This means the targeted services budget has either stayed the same or increased every year since 2015/16.

Overall the council’s total 2018/19 youth service budget is £5,292,786, down £191,010 from £5,483,796 in 2011/12.

Islington Council’s youth services budget. Source: Islington Council, via Freedom of Information request

Islington Council says this “small three per cent reduction” is caused by government cuts to other parts of the council’s finances, forcing the Town Hall to make some youth service savings.

They add that despite this the figures show the total youth service budget “has stayed almost the same”.

However, some worry about the impact of the reductions amid a rise of youth and gang violence in the borough.

Green Party councillor Caroline Russell said: “Investment in universal services has gone down by almost 30 per cent since 2014/15.

“And while the council says that the overall figure including targeted services has stayed broadly the same since 2011, the targeted services tackle issues like youth violence, and are driven by escalating need.”

She added: “The impact of government cuts on universal provision is really worrying, as that is the positive community-based work that can provide all young people with constructive opportunities and helps reduce the likelihood of involvement in gangs and anti-social behaviour.”

Green party Assembly Member Caroline Russell

Green Party councillor Caroline Russell. Photograph: GLA

An Islington Council spokesperson said: “On the youth services budget, the small three per cent reduction in funding between 2011/12 and 2018/19 for targeted and universal services for young people is a result of government cuts to the council’s funding.

“The council has lost almost 70 per cent of its core central government funding since 2010.

“Despite this, we continue to invest a significant amount of resources in providing both targeted and universal services for young people.”

They continued: “As the figures show, our investment in universal and targeted services for young people has stayed almost the same, despite the government’s massive cuts to the council’s funding.

“Our commitment to making Islington a fairer place for all means that we are focused on giving all young people the best start in life.”

The figures were requested by the Citizen after confusion over data provided to London Assembly Member Sian Berry, in an earlier FoI request for her annual report on London’s youth services, which did not allow for a year-by-year comparison.

Islington Council Leader Richard Watts. Photograph: Islington Council

Sian Berry, who is also a Green Party councillor in Camden, said: “Islington’s new figures sadly show a similar pattern of cuts to youth services as other councils have told us about across London, with the main funding cuts [taking place] in recent years.

“This represents a loss to the opportunities young people have, and though I was pleased to visit Soapbox recently, which is the new Islington youth facility being supported by Camden-based charity Dragon Hall, we do need the Mayor [of London] and the government to be helping councils like Islington to maintain their own spending too.”

She added: “Young people really are the best investment a city can make.”

Berry’s report shows a £39 million decrease in youth service budgets across London since 2011/12.

Last week, Islington Council Leader Richard Watts said efforts to curb violent incidents, such as the fatal stabbing outside the Town Hall on 21 May, were being “undermined” by government cuts, and promised a “fundamental” change in the council’s approach to preventing violent crime.

CORRECTION: This story has been amended (Friday 1 June 2018) from stating that Islington Council provided Sian Berry with ‘erroneous’ data to saying there was confusion over the council’s response. This correction follows a complaint by Islington Council.