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Cutting Camden youth services will “increase gang culture”

PUBLISHED: 10:00 11 July 2011 | UPDATED: 12:48 11 July 2011

Maitland Park

Maitland Park

Polly Hancock

‘Gang culture’ could escalate in a deprived pocket of Haverstock should plans go ahead to slash youth services, warns a local councillor.

Camden Council is considering cutting subsidised fitness classes and sport sessions at Maitland Park Gym, which is surrounded by a number of council estates in the Haverstock ward.

But councillor Matthew Sanders says scaling down youth services could see children as young as 10 lose their way and slip into bad habits.

“It’s deeply heart-breaking and the thing that terrifies me is that the police think young children, as young as 10, are involved as runners for older boys,” he said.

“They’re the ones the youth centre can help and if there’s no-one there to look after them then the culture is going to get ingrained and they’ll learn from older children.”

He added: “I am just questioning if it’s the best way forward when it forces a youth centre in one of the most deprived areas, and also an area which has serious problems with gang-related violence, to reduce services. When you hear senior people in the council saying we’re tackling the problem, I struggle to square the two.”

A council spokesman said: “Due to issues with the suitability of the building it may be necessary to relocate some youth sessions from there in future. Following a reduction in the money Camden receives from central government, we recently held a consultation to look at new ways of delivering our youth services.”

Sergeant Danny Hewitt, from Haverstock Safer Neighbourhoods Team, said the area did suffer from low-level youth anti-social behaviour and the cuts could have a negative impact.

“As far as I am concerned any facilities to engage youths or divert them away from the streets are a positive,” he said.

At a meeting on July 20 the council’s cabinet will look at the findings of a consultation on its proposal to slash time spent in youth work sessions by 15 per cent.

The council argues that if it does this and relocates services from Maitland Park and South Camden Youth Access Point elsewhere, it will make savings of £2.3million.

But Cllr Sanders claims children are extremely loyal to their area and are unlikely to travel further afield.

“The key thing for me is that we know that with gang violence one of the biggest problems is post code wars and young people feeling territorial,” he said. “So it seems naive to me to think they’re going to hop on a bus down the road.”

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