Sir Keir Starmer’s party accused Boris Johnson’s government of failing to tackle the conditions which led to the eruption of violence across Britain in 2011 – warning that the country remained a “tinderbox”.
A report released by Labour to coincide with the tenth anniversary found that the number of “forgotten families” where many of the young people involved came from was likely to have doubled in the past decade.
The unrest which started in the capital on 6 August 2011 before spreading to 66 other areas followed the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham two days before.
But Labour said the government had implemented only 11 of the 63 recommendations made by an independent panel in 2012. In its own report released on Thursday, the party said “the psychological damage to the communities the riots affected is untold”.
Launching Labour’s report on progress since the riots on Thursday, shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said: “The deep social inequalities have grown wider after a decade of cuts to vital services that support struggling families and a rise in poverty.”
The Labour frontbencher said the UK was currently in a “tinderbox” situation. “You can’t say – and shouldn’t say – there will be more riots. You can say the risk [of riots] we’re carrying today is higher than it was ten years ago,” Mr Reed told Sky News on Thursday.
The MP added: “There were half a million families who needed support to bring up their children safely but weren’t getting it. By the government’s own figures, there are now 1.6 million children in those circumstances.”
The report recognised that there had been improvements in bringing down the number of young people not in education, employment or training and that ministers had made progress in bringing services to work more closely together.
But it said there had been a 70 per cent cut in funding to youth services, in-work poverty and inability to access early years services had not been improved, and there had been no change to the youth re-offending rate between 2011 and 2021.
Calling Labour’s report “an alarm bell we cannot afford to ignore”, Mr Reed said: “The government chose to ignore the lessons of the riots, so the risks we face today seem higher than ever.”
What began as a protest against the Duggan killing turned into a full-scale riot that spread across the country over five days, involved around 15,000 people, and included looting, and businesses and vehicles set ablaze.
The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, which reported on the causes of the riots in 2012, found at the time that there were 500,000 so-called "forgotten families" in need of support but who did not reach the threshold for help due to funding cuts to local authority budgets.
By 2019, the latest data available, the Children’s Commissioner for England said in a similar measure that there were 829,000 young people considered “invisible” to children’s services, with a further 761,000 known to authorities but receiving an unclear level of support.
A government spokesperson said: “The events of August 2011 shocked the country, and the police and courts took commendably swift action to bring perpetrators to justice.
“We’re strengthening communities by levelling up opportunities and ensuring local people are at the heart of decision making – identifying what matters to them and the best ways to achieve this.
“We’ve allocated £12bn to councils since the start of the pandemic, with over £6bn not ring-fenced in recognition that councils are best placed to decide on local needs.”