Kim Leadbeater MP: Youth services hit by council cuts
Kim Leadbeater MP writes: If you want to stay in the game you have no choice but to get rid of some of your assets. The problem is that if it’s only a game you might sacrifice the Old Kent Road or sell a hotel back to the bank, but if you’re a local council your decision affects the lives of the very people you want to help and protect.
This week 44 Conservative MPs, including seven former cabinet ministers, have written to the Prime Minister to highlight the crisis councils of all political persuasions are facing. As their letter said ‘the past 12 months have been tough financially… given the unprecedented level of inflation and demand for services.’ As a result, they said, local authorities are having to cut services and put up Council Tax.
Here in Kirklees we know just how painful that can be, but now senior Tories themselves are pointing the finger at the government’s own financial settlement, which we on the Labour side have been saying was the problem for a long time.
There was a poll of councillors across the UK just before Christmas which showed that in all areas it was youth services in particular that had been hit the worst, including youth clubs, playgrounds, childcare services, and sports, culture and arts programmes.
In my view, these sorts of services are not luxuries. They’re not something it is ‘nice to have’ – they are important parts of our communities which really make a difference to people’s lives.
I was interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live last week to discuss anti-social behaviour and the plague of young people stealing off-road bikes and rampaging around in balaclavas putting pedestrians and others at risk. There is no excuse at all for criminal behaviour of that kind, but if we don’t give our youngsters something worthwhile and fun to do with their time and energy we risk them getting involved with more dangerous and disruptive behaviours.
Then there is the impact on everybody’s health and wellbeing. Later this month I’m hosting a conference here in Batley and Spen which will showcase practical examples of how sport and physical activity help keep people healthier, happier and more productive.
We have some amazing facilities and organisations across our area and I’ve fought hard to back them and protect their long-term future. Just since Christmas I’ve helped Spenborough Swimming Club, supported Wilton Park Junior Park Run, and joined the gymnastics team for a session at Panache. But I’m sorry to say the government at Westminster has simply got its priorities wrong. To give just one example, over 1,000 public swimming pools have closed across the country since the Tories came to power 14 years ago.
So while we can do our best locally – and I will always fight our corner as hard as I can – until we get change at the top we are never going to get this country moving in the right direction again.
Thank you for reading and, as always, you can contact me anytime on [email protected]