Charities and Brighton and Hove Council cannot begin work on a new youth centre because a promised government fund, announced two years ago, has not been distributed.
Councillor Hannah Clare, chair of the children, young people and skills committee, has now written to the charities minister explaining “why we desperately need the fund”.
In September 2019 the then chancellor, Sajid Javid, announced a £500m Youth Investment Fund as part of a series of announcements about Britain’s post-Brexit future. It was intended to build new centres and refurbish existing ones.
Last autumn more than 100 senior leaders and celebrities wrote to the Times warning that services could close if the funding was not delivered.
In her letter to Baroness Barran, minister for civil society, Clare says: “Youth services can be a vital lifeline for young people – providing them with something to do, somewhere to go and someone to talk to. The recognition of this from the government is significant and I commend you for doing so.
“However, it cannot be ignored that this fund has not yet been delivered, despite regular commitments and press statements from your department.”
£4m funding needed
Brighton and Hove City Council has partnered with Brighton Youth Centre and Onside Youth Zones on plans for a new youth centre on the current Brighton Youth Centre site.
However, Clare says the council cannot meet the £4m capital investment needed.
“Councillors on the committee I chaired agreed to a proposal earlier this year to form a partnership with Brighton Youth Centre and Onside Youth Zones to provide a brand-new youth centre on the current Brighton Youth Centre site,” she says.
“However, this agreement was dependent on securing some funds from the Youth Investment Fund, recognising that Brighton and Hove City Council has limited funds and will be unable to meet the over £4m capital investment required from us without support.”
She highlights problems with the existing building which is in “desperate need of investment” because it is “in a state of disrepair and has limited access for those with physical disabilities”.
She adds that the project was not eligible for a share of £30m, which was released from the fund for projects which could be completed by March 2022, and asks for confirmation of when the rest of the funding would be open to applications.
Clare also asks: “Whether it is likely that projects from Brighton and Hove will be eligible or whether the funds will be released in line with the government’s ‘Levelling Up Fund’ of which Brighton and Hove was tier 3?”
DCMS: ‘It remains a manifesto commitment’
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says the fund remained a “manifesto commitment” for this parliament, meaning it aims to deliver it before the next general election in 2024.
A spokesperson for DCMS, said: “We absolutely recognise the vital role youth services play. Over £100m from our unprecedented charity sector package has gone to organisations supporting children and young people during the pandemic, including the £16.5m Youth Covid Support Fund which provided emergency funding specifically for youth services.
“The £500m Youth Investment Fund remains a manifesto commitment for this parliament, and builds on more than £12bn given to local authorities this year, who have the statutory duty to allocate funding to youth services in line with local needs.”
The government is in the middle of a review of support for out-of-school youth programmes.
Most government departments are anticipating budget cuts in the 2021 spending review this autumn, as the chancellor tries to deal with the debt created by the pandemic.