A government minister has pledged to probe allegations that local authorities are breaching statutory guidance by making disproportionate cuts to youth charities.
Don Foster said he would look into concerns that councils have breached statutory guidance. Image: DCLG
Speaking at a conference staged by UK Youth, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), and Leap, junior local government minister Don Foster said claims that councils are not adhering to guidance is a “cause for concern”.
His comments came after a delegate, NCVYS trustee Kevin Curley, asked Foster why the government had issued guidance on protecting charities against cuts, but failed to take action against councils flouting it.
The Best Value Statutory Guidance was published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in September last year. it called on local authorities not to pass on larger cuts to the voluntary and community sector than they are subject to themselves.
After being told that the guidance was “not being observed” across the country, Foster admitted that the same issue had been raised with him several times.
“All I can do is promise that I will go back to the department and will look at the issue,” he said. “I don’t know the details and the figures and where it is happening but enough people have raised it with me for it to be a cause for concern.”
However Foster backed the concept of localism, dismissing calls for government to ring-fence cash for spending on youth services.
“One of the things I believe passionately in is a devolution of power and responsibility from central government,” he said. “We have therefore got to give opportunities at local level for people to make decisions about their priorities.”
Also speaking at the conference, children’s minister Edward Timpson told delegates that government would continue to “invest heavily in youth services”, but warned not to expect “new announcements from the centre”.
“I know overall issues of funding are a concern. Let me be absolutely clear, I am under no illusions about the pressures local authorities are under,” he said.
“We are all having to make difficult decisions. This means working more closely together, which many of you are doing to make existing funding go further and get maximum leverage. It is an approach that tends to get a greater sense of community ownership.”
Timpson added that the British Youth Council (BYC) would be funded by government for a further two years, stressing the importance of young people scrutinising both national and local government.
"The national scrutiny group (set up by BYC) has been able to interrogate ministers including myself," he said.
"I don't think there is any better sign of how seriously the government takes youth voice, as having young people at the heart of the government regime."