Government proposals to transfer the costs of youth remand to local authorities will leave councils severely out of pocket, with a £7.3m funding shortfall in London alone.
That was the warning from London Councils today, which is urging the government to delay the plans to give local authorities the time and resources to develop solutions.
The proposed changes are part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act and will see all children remanded in custody given looked-after status from 3 December. As a result, the costs of youth remand will be transferred to local authorities in April.
The government predicts a 15% fall in costs through increased remand thresholds and plans to cut local authorities’ funding accordingly, but London Councils strongly disputes this analysis.
The 15% reduction assumes a corresponding 15% fall in the use of secure remand, the body, which represents the capital’s 33 councils, said. It claimed this prediction is unrealistic in a high need region like London, where the changes are likely to cost boroughs “at least £1.4million in the first year alone”.
Mayor Jules Pipe, chair of London Councils, said: “While we support the reforms in principle, it is clearly wrong that London, as a region with high levels of youth offending, is bearing the burden of these changes to youth remand.”
“To ease the transition, the government should delay the proposed cut to youth funding by at least a year to allow local authorities sufficient time and resources to develop innovative local solutions to overcome this drop in funding.”
Giving remanded children looked-after status could incur costs of around £500,000 per year, London Councils said, leaving some areas out of pocket if the plans are not funded properly.
The removal of Youth Justice Board funding towards the cost of secure children’s homes and secure training centres also creates a new burden, the body said.
In a statement it said: “As the Ministry of Justice acknowledges, the removal of this two-thirds subsidy will leave a national local government shortfall of £16 million, of which £5.8 million is in London.
“The combined cost of the removal of this subsidy, alongside a 15% reduction in overall funding, equates to a London shortfall of £7.3 million, according to the MoJ’s own figures.”