Mayor targets capital’s most disadvantaged with education, sport and cultural initiatives
The mayor of London has promised £15m a year to fund education, sport and cultural activities for the capital’s most disadvantaged young people, in an effort to steer them away from crime and violence.
Sadiq Khan announced the three-year initiative, worth £45m, and condemned cuts by the government that had led to the closure of 30 youth centres in London, involving 12,700 places for young people, since 2011. Such services were vital to help young people avoid being “sucked into crime”, he said.
“It is sadly obvious that this government does not value London’s young people, but I am determined to invest in them, with tens of millions of pounds for activities to support them,” Khan said in a statement.
The mayor’s office said the new cash would be in addition to £7m already made available for anti-knife and gang-crime projects as part of the city’s knife crime strategy. The money will come from council tax and business rates.
Two-thirds of the new funding will be put into a fund from which local communities, charities and schools will be invited to bid for cash, while the remaining third will boost existing youth projects already funded by City Hall.
Shelagh O’Connor, the director of the New Horizon youth centre, welcomed the new investment after five years of cuts to community projects. “You can never say it’s enough, but £15m per year could really make a difference,” she said. “The injection of funds could go a long way to prevent young people from ending in crime or homelessness.”
But Ken Hinds, who mentors young men just released from jail and chairs the Haringey independent stop and search monitoring group, claimed the funds would most likely find their way to “fat cats” who “have networks with power”.
“These funds won’t reach the critical groups that are doing work within communities,” he said. “We need to find community champions, those people known for their outstanding work within the community, not usually liked by the establishment but who are key to turning things around, who could be mediators.”