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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Red tape is strangling the British sports and arts clubs that could prevent young people from turning to antisocial behavior and crime, a local government watchdog said on Wednesday.
Government grants needed to fund activity schemes for young people are a "dog's breakfast," Britain's Audit Commission said.
"Project leaders are thwarted in their attempts to keep young people out of trouble by wasteful, inefficient and bureaucratic funding arrangements for diversionary projects," said Audit Commission Chairman Michael O'Higgins.
Youth workers can spend a third of their time managing budgets and chasing new funding instead of devoting their attention to young people, the watchdog said in a report.
In some cases the administrative cost of bidding for grants was greater than the amount of funding the applicants hope to receive. This made no economic sense, said the commission.
"A young person in the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer 200,000 pounds ($282,200) by the age of 16, but one needing support to stay out costs less than 50,000 pounds," it said.
More than half the funding for sports and leisure projects comes from central government and can be traced back across seven different departments, said the watchdog.
"More funding streams should be pooled to reduce administration costs which could be spent on young people's services instead," it recommended.
Britain's Labor party-run government said it had done more than any other in recent times to provide positive activities and sporting facilities for young people, as well as giving councils flexibility to meet local needs.
"To ignore this -- as this report does -- undermines the hard work of many young people, youth workers and volunteers across the country," said Children's Minister Beverley Hughes.
Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato