A union leader warned of a possible repeat of the 2011 Tottenham riots if Haringey Council goes ahead with proposals to cut funding for youth services.

Sean Fox, of UNISON, warned councillors in a cabinet meeting shortly before Christmas that withdrawing services from young people was wrong.

The council proposes to cut £2,100,000 from the budget for young people's services, including young offenders by 2018. In 2013/14, the youth service budget was £2,100,000.

Criticising the lack of detail in the authority’s plans for young people, Mr Fox said it appeared the council planned to merge the youth service with the youth offending service, and that this would only serve to stigmatise more young people.

Speaking to the Independent, he said: “Youth services are about stepping in and providing young people with a safe space to look at issues. If they become something that responds to problems rather than prevents them you run the risk of disorder.

“I don’t want to say that if you withdraw service from young people then they are going to riot, because it’s more complicated than that. But that is one of the ways in which people might respond.”

His concerns were shared by Seema Chandwani, a youth worker with Positive Youth News Haringey, who said that cutting the entire budget of the youth service was not an investment.

She said: “It’s fantastic the council says it wants to “invest in young people” and recognises it needs to. But cutting the youth service budget by £2.1m, its entire budget this year, is obviously not an investment at all. It is insincere to suggest this is investing of any kind.”

She added: “The council’s objective of early help is admirable, but it’s met with contradiction when young people will only be rewarded with a youth service if their behaviour is already high risk, and by that point it’s often too late.”

But Councillor Ann Waters, cabinet member for children and families, said that the consultations about “possible ways of improving youth services” while making savings were ongoing, and that more detailed consultation would also take place.

She said:  “No final decisions have been made at this stage, and any proposals that are likely to have a significant impact on service users will only be taken forward following a further round of detailed consultation.

“With cuts to our budget of around £70million over three years – on top of more than £100million saved since 2010 – it’s clear that there are difficult decisions to be made.

“We are committed to ensuring that remaining resources are more effectively targeted and focus on improving the skills and employability of young people so that they are best placed to make the most of opportunities available to them.

“The council is just one of a great many organisations in Haringey that offer services and activities to young people – from youth groups and sports clubs to after-school activities.

“We want to work more effectively with these organisations to ensure that all young people in Haringey are well provided for and supported.” 

In November, Tottenham MP David Lammy said youth services need to be protected from funding cuts and signed an early day motion in parliament calling for a nationwide “statutory funded, wide-ranging and universal youth service” to be delivered by local authorities.

On signing the motion, he said: “It is incredibly important that young people across the borough, and indeed across the UK, have access to a range of youth services that support their health, wellbeing and happiness."