CUTS to youth services since 2010 in West Berkshire have been the worst in the country, according to new data. 

The YMCA sent freedom of information requests to 152 local authorities in England, and of the 84 that responded, West Berkshire Council had cut the most. 

In 2010, the council budgeted £2,853,000 on youth services. This year, they budgeted just £76,000 — a drop of 97 per cent. 

Councillor Dominic Boeck, lead member for education, said ‘significant financial constraints’ led the council to move to a ‘targeted provision’, instead of the previously free, district-wide provision.

He said most youth centres are now owned by the community or parish councils, with most still running. And there continues to be council services for young offenders and those misusing substances, young carers and asylum-seeking children.

He said: “It is these vulnerable people who need our support the most.”

Cllr Boeck was answering a public question from Caroline ffrench Blake, at a meeting of the executive on October 17, about the level of budget cuts to youth services.

Ms Blake said: “I’m sure that’s right, that the most vulnerable do need the most support. But, it’s support across the board that is important. 

“As probably everybody knows here, there’s a seven per cent rise in knife crime across the country. Do you think this support that is left for local people is sufficient across the board, not just for particular children in need?”

Cllr Boeck replied: “The provision of youth services that were previously provided by West Berkshire didn’t disappear, they continued to be delivered. 

“Not perhaps to the same extent or depth or volume, but services are being delivered locally to the young people of West Berkshire.”

According to the YMCA, English councils in 2010 spent on average £7.79 million on youth services. Of the 84 that responded to the freedom of information requests, the average planned spend was £2.45 million, a drop of 69 per cent. 

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales, said: “Youth services offer a vital lifeline within local communities, providing young people with support, advice and a place to go when they need it most.

“The year-on-year cuts to youth services are not without consequences, and we are already seeing the impact of these cuts in communities across the country.”