The Rhondda AM has called for Welsh Government intervention to boost youth services and tackle growing anti-social behaviour among young people.
During a scrutiny session of the Labour Cabinet Member in charge of Local Government, Leanne Wood cited the recent disturbances at Ystradfechan cricket field in Treorci and the mass gathering of young people in Pontypridd town centre.
Ms Wood said that Labour’s large cuts on RCT Council to youth services were partly to blame as young people didn’t have much to do in the evenings after school anymore.
She said: “Recently, there have been pockets of anti-social behaviour incidents in my constituency. Ystradfechan cricket field in Treorchy is the scene of large gatherings of youths, which have escalated in seriousness in recent times. Drug paraphernalia and smashed alcohol bottles are frequent sights at this beautiful park in the aftermath of these gatherings.
“Furthermore, the threat of large-scale disturbance involving young people from the Rhondda, the Cynon Valley and Pontypridd was, thankfully, averted due to proactive policing in Pontypridd town centre over the last couple of weeks.”
She added: “Local authorities have a vital role to play in tackling anti-social behaviour at source with their responsibility for youth services. Now, in England, a link has been established between areas with the biggest cut to youth services and the sharpest increase in knife crime.
“Now, I value youth services. I personally benefited from them, as did my friends. In Rhondda Cynon Taf, youth services have been hollowed out as a result of cuts, because the Labour administration simply hasn't prioritised youth services. And the result is that young people are left with very little to do and now we're seeing the fruits of that.
“So, what value does your Government place on youth services? And, if you agree with me that youth services are vital, will that be reflected in the next local government settlement, and would you also consider issuing guidance to local authority leaders on this matter?”
In reply, Local Government Minister Julie James said: “The First Minister has been very keen to emphasise that we want to put back the heart into youth services in Wales, and we are having discussions with local authorities and the youth service itself and our youth workers across Wales about what the best way to do that is.”
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