Youth spending more than halves in three years in Walsall
Spending on youth services has more than halved in a Black Country borough over the last three years, it can be revealed.
Walsall Council has slashed its youth budget dramatically since 2016, providing yet more evidence of cuts to what exerts say is a crucial area.
More than £1.2m was spent in Walsall in 2016/17 but by this year the amount had plummeted to below half a million pounds. All but one of 13 youth clubs in the borough closed during that time.
It came during a period when violent crime soared to record levels in the West Midlands, which has been the scene of a series of stabbings and other serious attacks.
The authority's spend on youth services fell from £1.215m in 2016/17 to £477,000 in 2018/19, figures provided following a Freedom of Information request by the Express & Star revealed.
Police chiefs and youth leaders insist there is a link between falling spending on youth services and increasing crime rates.
It comes after the Express & Star previously revealed that youth budgets had also been cut back at every other local authority in the Black Country and Staffordshire. Council bosses say they have had no choice but to change the way youth budgets are managed due to cuts from central Government.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he feared cuts to youth budgets were "fuelling violent crime" and had resulted in troubled teenagers being left with "no place to turn".
Just six weeks ago a 17-year-old boy suffered serious wounds to his face and hands after being stabbed in a Walsall McDonald's.
Wesley De Costa, a 26-year-old pastor at the Potters House Christian Fellowship Church in Walsall, whose cousin Leon was stabbed to death 11 years ago in Kingstanding, Birmingham, has launched a campaign to try to encourage young people not to carry knives.
He said: "When I was 15 I went to a youth centre, I was there nearly every day. They have got that culture where everybody knows each other. It gives them something to do, a place of belonging and if that isn’t there they find it on the streets and that’s exactly what happens."
Walsall Council declined to comment.