A UNION has slammed the council for spending £300,000 on three youth buses - as it prepares to axe 51 jobs in young people's services.

Unison has described the cost, which relates to a period between December 2007 and March 2010, as a shocking waste.

It claims that less than 500 young people in the borough have used the mobile youth centres since 2007.

The council disputes the figure and says more than 820 youngsters have used them in the last financial year - although this includes a service jointly run by Christian charity Worth Unlimited.

Waltham Forest Unison secretary Dave Knight called for an inquiry into the "indulgent" spending.

He said: "Can this £300,000 be value for money while three active youth centres rely on under-paid administrators to manage third-rate buildings?

"The demise of professional youth provision in Waltham Forest is not only shocking but shameful.

"Unison is calling on the council for an inquiry over the procurement and wasteful expenditure that is to the detriment of young people in the borough.”

He added: "Unison is also calling on young people and the wider community in Waltham Forest to question why senior management are cutting professional youth work posts to the most vulnerable of our young citizens while profligate group managers are wasting public money on meaningless pet projects."

Mr Knight said the £300,000 spending included £73,800 on buying the buses, £76,200 on refitting them and £12,330 to service them over three years.

The council's cabinet member for children and young people, Cllr Saima Mahmud, defended the spending.

She said: “In 2009-10 more than 820 young people from some of the borough’s most deprived areas visited the council’s youth buses for advice on employment, education, training opportunities, drugs and sexual health.

“The project has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from young people, residents and the local police, and I know I’m not the only one who values the buses’ contribution to the activities and opportunities we offer the borough’s young people.”

The council is currently consulting on plans to axe 51 youth worker jobs as part of phase four of its “reorganisation” programme.

The authority says it must save £65 million over the next four years due to an unprecedented reduction in central Government funding. Whitehall insists savings can be made without impacting on front line services.

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