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Antisocial Behaviour (Wellingborough)

Volume 447: debated on Monday 5 June 2006

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Tony Cunningham.]

I thank Mr. Speaker for giving me the opportunity to discuss an issue that is becoming increasingly significant in my constituency. I also thank the Minister for his attendance and look forward to his response. I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) to the debate—we share the same basic police area, and I know of his concern about crime.

When I applied for the debate, the title that I proposed was “Vandalism, Graffiti, Arson, Muggings and Yob Culture in Wellingborough”. That was changed on the Order Paper to “Tackling antisocial behaviour in Wellingborough”. I want to make it clear from the start why I do not believe that “antisocial behaviour” is an adequate description of the problem in my constituency.

In certain parts of Wellingborough, yob culture is rife. It is that yob culture—what is described as “low-level crime”—that is having such a devastating effect on many law-abiding citizens in my constituency. Yob culture, vandalism, thuggery, muggings, arson, drug-dealing and generally threatening behaviour may not command the same seriousness in the eyes of the law as high-level crimes, but they blight the lives of many, many innocent people. Those people feel that the law is letting them down—that the law is on the side of the criminal, not the victim. They feel helpless. I am here today to stand up for those people in my constituency.

“Antisocial behaviour” is not a strong enough phrase to describe the despair that families in my constituency are experiencing at the hands of mindless criminals who make it their mission to disrupt the everyday lives of innocent people. These yobs are criminals, and they must be caught and tried as such.

One of my constituents had huge concerns about law and order in the other major town in my constituency, Rushden. Councillor David Childs was both a district and a town councillor, and he was very concerned about the level of crime and violence in the town, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. He had suffered unprovoked attacks on two separate occasions. David was not a professional politician; he was an ordinary, decent person who wanted to serve the community in which he lived. He was a local plumber and a family man. Although he held Conservative views, his interest was in helping the local community, regardless of party politics. He played an active role in promoting social life in Rushden through his many interests, including “Party in the Park”.

Like many local councillors, David wanted to see a greater police presence in the town. I have mentioned him first because it was he who first alerted me to the problems of yob culture in Rushden. On 4 May this year, David was made mayor of Rushden. Unfortunately, a week ago today he died of asbestos- related cancer. I shall attend his funeral tomorrow. David will be sorely missed by his family, friends and colleagues, and by the people of Rushden.

Yob culture is growing in Wellingborough. For some families, the situation has become so unbearable that they feel that the only option is to take the law into their own hands. They are fed up with being victims of the mindless youths who terrorise their lives. I run the Listening to Wellingborough and Rushden campaign. We regularly survey local people because I feel it is important to listen to the views of people whom one represents and then campaign for change on their behalf. The campaign was formed because only by listening to people makes is possible fully to appreciate their problems and concerns.

The listening campaign seeks the views of local people through surveys, public meetings and door-to-door canvassing, as well as by e-mail and telephone. We regularly send out surveys to residents asking what local and national issues are of most concern to them. Time after time, the number one issue of concern for the people of Wellingborough is crime. In fact, the gap between crime and the second biggest concern for my constituents is increasing with every survey.

Just last week, I had a meeting with worried residents in the Croyland ward of Wellingborough. They contacted me because they were fed up with a couple of problem families in the area who were making the lives of everyone else a misery. Several people who live in the Abbey road and Priory road area of Croyland told me how they were subjected to a constant spate of vandalism, graffiti, theft, abuse and even arson. Only a few residents felt that they were able to come forward to let me know of their suffering. Many of the other families, especially the elderly, who have been affected by this explosion of yob culture in the area were too scared to come forward; they were afraid of the repercussions that it would cause. One name did get into the local media and that person's garden was set on fire. How many more cases are there that we do not know about? These are innocent victims who are too scared to say anything in fear of being a target of revenge by mindless criminals.

The meeting I had last week was also attended by the police, the antisocial behaviour officer for Wellingborough council and local councillors Paul Ainge and Lesley Callnon. The residents of Abbey road told us how they were consistently terrorised by the yobs. Their cars have been vandalised so many times that someone made the point that they no longer get the damage repaired because it will just happen again. One person said that they were too frightened to go on holiday because they were not sure what they would come home to.

Many of the residents who attended the meeting own their houses. Some have tried to move out of the area, but their property is unsaleable owing to the reputation of those local yobs. Why should innocent families be forced to sell their homes?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want to give the impression that teenage thuggery, persistent truancy and general antisocial behaviour are restricted to young people who happen to live in rented properties on council or housing association estates. He is coming perilously close to saying that. Some of the worst cases in north-west Leicestershire are in private estates around the town centre.

I am grateful for that intervention. I tried to word this passage of my speech particularly carefully because it would be totally wrong and misleading to suggest that it is council tenants who cause the problem. That is outrageous and wrong, but in this particular case, as I shall explain, there are one or two families who are living in council property and the question has been raised of why the council is not doing something about it.

The criminals whom residents spoke of were all council tenants. The residents said, “Why should the council rent accommodation to people who are terrorising the neighbourhood? Surely the council should have powers to evict families who are acting in such an appalling manner.” Why should they be terrorised by those very few families, who happen to be council tenants?

The system is failing those people and the criminals know it. One of the mantras that is being muttered around criminal circles in Wellingborough is, “You don’t rob off your own. You rob off people who are rich enough to afford insurance.” When those yobs and vandals get away with terrorising innocent people, they see no reason why their criminal activities should not continue and grow in degree and intensity.

The residents at the meeting gave the representatives of the council and the police the names of the criminals. Both the police and the local council were well aware of those criminals. Indeed, most of them were repeat offenders, yet they are still living in council accommodation, terrorising the innocent.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. I know that he is a constituency champion on these and other important local issues. He has just made the point that the police, the council and the other agencies know who these criminals and yobs are. Does he agree that the system is such that the legal team at Wellingborough council, which is now a joint team with Kettering council, finds it extremely difficult to convince the courts that known criminals and yobs should be evicted from their council tenancies?

My hon. Friend makes a powerful and true point. It was interesting that when the residents were naming three or four families who were causing the problems, before they finished the police told them who the next family was. It is ridiculous—the police, the council and the victim know who is doing it, yet no action can be taken.

The police sergeant at the meeting explained how the call centre worked when people telephone the police. He stated that there is a call centre grading system where the operator grades the seriousness of the crime, which then receives the allocated and available resources. General thuggery and yob crime is not high on the priority list, yet it is that type of crime that affects so many people up and down the country. One person summed it up at the meeting by saying that there is no point in phoning the police if the group of known criminals are hanging around outside their property because they would just get laughed at—but it is that intimidation and the lack of response which currently allows the criminals to win.

What we need in Wellingborough, what we must have, is an increased police presence on our streets. We need more police officers patrolling the beat, catching criminals and deterring crime. The answer to the problem of yob culture is not regional superforces, as proposed by the Government. In my constituency, we have already lost our chief superintendent, who is now based in Kettering. Public access to Wellingborough police station is now part-time. Police resources have been diverted elsewhere, all to the detriment of my constituents.

Under the Government's plans for an east midlands superforce, Northamptonshire police would merge with Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.

Our police headquarters would be moved from Northampton to Nottingham, and all that at a huge cost to the taxpayer. The money would be better spent on local policing—on more beat officers patrolling our streets. It is proven that if we have a greater police presence on the streets, the level of crime decreases.

While I took issue with the hon. Gentleman the first time I intervened, I endorse the point that he is making now. If a force serving a population of 4.25 million has its headquarters 40 or so miles away, it is likely to be less sensitive to local priorities on antisocial behaviour not just in Wellingborough, but in Whitwick in Leicestershire and Wirksworth in Derbyshire. The list could go on. There is real concern that those priorities will be damaged as policing resources are transferred to Nottingham and south Nottinghamshire to tackle the evident problems there.

Again, I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I know of his concern, which he has expressed on many occasions, about the proposal to create an east midlands regional force, but I will come later specifically to that point.

Another area in my constituency, Queensway, has experienced a lot of crime caused by yob culture. The police recognised that that was a real problem area and ploughed huge police resources into the neighbourhood. In Queensway, there was a particular problem with burglaries. Extra police officers were drafted in to patrol the area 24 hours a day and the number of burglaries went down to zero. As soon as that police presence was removed, the crime levels started to increase again.

The latest crime figures were released last week. In north Northamptonshire, crime figures were down in every area—except Wellingborough. Crime was up 4 per cent. last year on the previous year’s figure. One in eight people in Wellingborough is a victim of crime. In adjoining Kettering, the figure is one in 11. In the adjoining area of east Northamptonshire, it is one in 16. In other words, a person is twice as likely to be a victim of crime in Wellingborough as in an adjoining area.

It is not just so-called low-level crime that is on the rise. The surrounding areas of Kettering, Corby and east Northamptonshire had a reduction in violent crime; in Wellingborough, it increased. The other three areas also had a decrease in criminal damage; in Wellingborough, it increased. Crime is, unfortunately, out of control in Wellingborough, and something must be done to protect its law-abiding citizens. It is proven that a strong local police presence works. We need it in Wellingborough, and we need it all the time.

We also need local, accountable chiefs to run our police forces. We need sheriffs, directly elected by the people, to run our police service. If they fail, they can be held directly accountable. At the moment, that just does not happen. What we do not need are the Government’s superforces, which will take even more power away from our citizens, who should have a voice in how their service is run. How can a chief of police be accountable to the people of Wellingborough when he is based in Nottingham? It is all well and good going back to having a sheriff of Nottingham, but I want a sheriff of Wellingborough as well.

The Government need to stop spending money on police community support officers and start putting more money into having more real police officers. When senior police officers are asked whether they want more PCSOs or more real police officers, I think I know what the answer is. If the people of Wellingborough are asked what they want more of, the answer is more real police officers patrolling the streets, catching criminals and deterring crime.

I wish to put a number of suggestions to the Minister. Does he accept that top-down policing, with national targets, has failed? How can the priorities of Wellingborough, Nottingham, Lincoln and Market Harborough all be the same? Does he accept that the woolly minded liberal thinking on yob culture of the past 30 years or so has failed us? The liberal excuses are that it is all the fault of poor education, that these young yobs will grow out of it, and that it is always the community’s fault and never that of the individuals responsible. Is not all that absolute rubbish? If the Minister does not accept that, will he explain why the policies of the last decade have failed so miserably?

On a more positive note, I suggest that the Government take the problem seriously; that they set up proper, long-term consultation; that they abandon their plans for super police forces; that they look at least at the possibility of elected sheriffs; that they look at mergers of police forces based on operational needs, not regional boundaries; that they look at the case for an office of homeland security; and that they consider running pilot schemes of density policing with a zero-tolerance approach to low-level crime. If they think that such pilots are a good idea, may I volunteer Wellingborough as the first?

Would not it be a good idea to reconsider penalties for yobs, thugs and vandals? Let us have policing based on the needs of local people. It is not rocket science—we do not need a totally remote superforce, costing the taxpayer millions of pounds, to solve the problem of crime. We need more police, out on the beat. We need our chief superintendent restored to Wellingborough. We need our police station open and manned full time. We need zero tolerance of thugs, vandals and yobs. We need to be surprised if we do not see a police officer patrolling the streets—at the moment, we are surprised if we do see one.

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that although we have more time for the debate than might have been anticipated, it is strictly about Wellingborough and antisocial behaviour.

I am grateful for your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I am delighted to support my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) on the subject of his debate tonight. He and I share a local paper, the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, and are delighted that it is, this week and in recent weeks, featuring a series of articles on crime and antisocial behaviour in Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby. We have seen stories about residents in Wellingborough and the sad circumstances of the crime and antisocial behaviour from which they suffer. We should congratulate the paper on its initiative. In raising the issue, it is probing the details of how the problem can be tackled. That goes alongside another campaign that the paper is running on the “seven social sins”, which include the graffiti, vandalism and yobbery that my hon. Friend so excellently described.

I have also recently spent time with the local police force I share with my hon. Friend. On two occasions, I have come into direct contact with crime and antisocial behaviour in Wellingborough. On the first occasion, I had the opportunity to telephone my hon. Friend from the Wellingborough library, to which I had been driven, with the police scientific support unit, to try to find fingerprint and DNA evidence of someone who had broken in. After an extensive search, some very good footprints, fingerprints and DNA samples were indeed found.

The chances are that the person who broke in, causing extensive damage to the library, is probably a persistent and prolific offender who is very well known to the local police. It is my view that such persistent and prolific offenders should, when caught—as they are by our local police—and when they are sentenced—as they are by the courts—should serve their time in jail in full. Those persistent prolific offenders are basically extremely bad people, most of whom are incapable of being reformed. They commit 85 per cent. of local crime in Wellingborough, and my point is that the police spend all their time chasing persistent prolific offenders when they are released from jail. If they did not have to do that, they could spend their time and resources on introducing zero-tolerance the policies on crime and antisocial behaviour that the people of Wellingborough want.

My other direct experience of Wellingborough yobbery happened in a car park in Burton Latimer, just over the border. I was on patrol with the local police as part of the police parliamentary scheme when we came across a car at dead of night. Six Wellingborough youths were hanging around outside it. The car was full of drug smoke—it was almost blue—but no one was actually in the car. Because the six youths involved were not in the car, there was little the local police could do. They took names and addresses and searched the youths. They came to the conclusion that the vehicle was a stolen one. Clearly, some kind of crime had been committed, but the police decided that they simply could not take action against the six youths because they were not sitting in the car when the police arrived.

The point is that the law somehow needs to be changed and the system adjusted so that common-sense policing can take place. Despite the best efforts of the local police in Wellingborough and Kettering, it is becoming increasingly difficult for our local officers to present evidence to courts that courts will accept. The burden of proof is simply, in many cases, too great.

In that case, the police took names and addresses and let the youths go. The car was taken to the Northamptonshire car pound and reported as a stolen vehicle. I asked the officer concerned, “What will happen now that these youths have to walk back to Wellingborough?” and he said, “Well, another car crime will probably be committed tonight.” That is the sad and sorry state that we have got into in Northamptonshire.

My fundamental point is that, as my hon. Friend said, the police and the authorities know who the yobs and the criminals are and they are doing their very best to sort out the situation, but when those people are caught and sentenced, they should serve their time in full.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) on securing the debate and commend him on his eloquence. These are hugely important issues. I take the point that he made at the start: of course, these offences do not rank with the most serious crimes—murder, manslaughter and so on—but the impact on our communities is none the less quite severe, and blights communities every day.

May I, through the hon. Gentleman, pass on my commiserations to the family of Councillor David—I did not catch his second name; I do apologise—the recent mayor of Rushton? I commend his sadly now deceased colleague for his public service and all his endeavours. I say without fear or favour that councillors of all parties throughout the country are doing a fine job for their communities, day in, day out, and very often with little reward.

The Minister says that councillors throughout the country are doing just that sort of job, but does he acknowledge that some councils appear reluctant to tackle antisocial behaviour and all that goes with it in a systematic and adequate fashion? Does he welcome what the Prime Minister has said today about the funding of councils that do not get to grips with that as the three Back Benchers who are in the Chamber are urging tonight?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, because I agree wholeheartedly with all that he says. We must get to a stage where all the agencies involved in such matters take them as seriously as our assorted communities in various constituencies do, and I fully concur with him in that regard. Again, beyond any sort of party dimension, there are councils up and down the country that work very closely with their crime and disorder reduction partnerships to great effect and do get it—to use the modern parlance—with regard to the impact of such apparently low-level crimes and yobbery on our communities. So I commend what my hon. Friend has said, as well as the comments made by the hon. Members for Wellingborough and for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone).

The exasperation of many people in our communities, not least that of the hon. Member for Wellingborough, may well lead them, at least in passing, to think of taking the law into their own hands. I am sure that he will join me in trying to exhort people not to do so, regardless of their frustrations. As my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) suggests, this is about invoking the local machinery and stakeholders to ensure that things improve.

The hon. Member for Wellingborough will know of examples of such improvements in Wellingborough and elsewhere. None the less, as he suggests, the starting premise is that yob culture, low-level crime, vandalism and all that is wrapped up under the label of antisocial behaviour are unacceptable and should not happen. That is very much on the agenda for all of us, and the Government have tried to do any number of things in that regard.

Before I go into some of the detail about Wellingborough and Northamptonshire, and the national plans, let us take one step back. There are things that can and should happen regarding the responsibilities of the individual citizen and the family rather than the state, whether locally or nationally. The hon. Gentleman will know that many of the things that we outlined in the respect action plan relate to parenting, education and how people should learn effectively to be good citizens, and if not to respect, at least to tolerate one another.

As my hon. Friend suggests, the more people who condemn such behaviour as unacceptable and against the grain the better. The notion of a culture that says that such behaviour is acceptable, and just the way things are these days with young children, is simply unacceptable, in Wellingborough and elsewhere. It is clear in Wellingborough and elsewhere that people of all generations and backgrounds are united in wanting antisocial behaviour to be tackled head on, as it directly affects their quality of life.

The last time I had the pleasure to share such a forum—upstairs, I believe—with the hon. Gentleman and his colleague the hon. Member for Kettering was in a debate specifically on the restructuring of the east midlands police force. With respect, I will not go down that route today, except to repeat that I am more than happy to meet all the MPs from the east midlands, on a county basis or any other basis, to speak directly to that policy, which, as I have been saying over the past couple of days, involves important issues.

Crucial to the direction that policing will take in this country, with or without superforces, as the hon. Gentleman describes them, is the continued implementation of what we are trying to do with forces throughout the country in relation to neighbourhood policing. We are trying to determine—this is already well advanced in some ways in Wellingborough—how such neighbourhood policing will dovetail with all the assorted local stakeholders, for want of a better phrase, including the crime and disorder reduction partnership, so that those involved can give the best of their resources to help local people. I am know that the hon. Gentleman is aware of that, and that he works well with Wellingborough’s antisocial behaviour co-ordinator and others in that context.

The truth is that whatever the Government do in offering resources for policing and in setting out our agenda and legislation on antisocial behaviour and the respect action plan, we cannot impose those things on communities to assist them. We must all work together locally and nationally across assorted agencies to ensure that people get the protection that they deserve.

Notwithstanding my hon. Friend’s comments, communities, councils, police forces and other authorities throughout the country are increasingly taking a stand against such behaviour. There are examples up and down the country of the sort of tipping point that is reached when sufficient effort and resources are put in by assorted local agencies—when we get to the stage where people say, “We won’t put up with this sort of behaviour any more.” At worst, the antisocial behaviour moves elsewhere; at best, it is not displaced in that way, because the people next door, too, make dealing with it a priority.

We want to get to a stage where CDRPs, local police and local councils all work together successfully to move towards precisely the sort of zero tolerance that the hon. Gentleman suggests. It is almost a cultural change, and that takes time. As my hon. Friend suggests, it has taken time to break down some barriers between those assorted agencies, but in the end more and more people are moving towards an acceptance that although such crimes may be low level, they are increasingly important.

I do not want to quibble with the hon. Gentleman about crime rates. The latest information that I have for Wellingborough CDRP area and Northamptonshire is that many of the figures that he has quoted are not accurate about the measures taken in 2003-04 compared with 2004-05, when burglary, theft, fraud and criminal damage all went in the right direction—down—in Wellingborough and Northamptonshire. However, I am sure that we can talk about statistics after the debate.

I still accept that even if crime levels are moving in the right direction, because of the malaise of antisocial behaviour, the perception in our communities is that crime is being anything but reduced. I have attended meetings similar to those that the hon. Member for Wellingborough has organised, and I can say until I am blue in the face, “Yes, but Harrow is the safest but one borough in the whole of London,” only to be told time and again, “Well, it doesn’t feel like it.” So it is not just a question of dry statistics, although I would contend that the statistics are going in the right direction; we must do all we can with all the agencies concerned, to improve the situation.

The hon. Member for Wellingborough referred, perhaps a tad unkindly, to the Caspar project in Queensway. As he will know, it involved not just a police presence but a whole series of other important elements that, in some cases, sought to re-establish the fabric and infrastructure of the local community. It did not, as the hon. Gentleman implied, provide “something for the kids to do” in a liberal, woolly, wishy-washy way; rather, it turned round that estate and improved the situation. The project has not been 100 per cent. successful in eradicating all the difficulties associated with antisocial behaviour, but I hope that he will agree that it has improved the situation in Queensway, and that the collective behaviour is far better than it was. Such interventions are important. They may seem to be as low-level and unimportant as many of the activities that we are discussing, but the hon. Gentleman will know that they have led to significant improvements in the community.

Following the hon. Gentleman’s discussions with residents in Abbey road and Priory road, the police are at least considering the use of measures such as cameras and additional patrols. That shows that, through a partnership in which the community and individual agencies collectively recognise that such behaviour is no longer acceptable, the situation will improve.

There are record numbers of police throughout the country, and there has been an equivalent increase for Northamptonshire. While that should be taken as read, it is important that local constables use the record level of resources to the best of their ability in servicing local communities. We are examining ways of ensuring that civilians do the jobs that civilians should be doing, so that we can increase the number of uniformed officers on the streets and reduce the number in police stations. I should point out that that project has the full indulgence and active participation of the police forces themselves, who are keen to get officers out on the beat. I take issue, however, with the notion that police community support officers have no real place in the equation; they do, and they can work very well with the police. They are not, and were never meant to be, substitute policemen, but they do act as their eyes and ears and complement what they do in a particularly productive way. [Interruption.]

Despite the fact that, as instructed, my phone is on “Boothroyd” mode, the vibration is particularly loud and I cannot turn it down. I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

There are plans to introduce more community support officers to assist the record numbers of police, which is only right and proper. To judge by the London experience and the way in which the Metropolitan police have configured their local neighbourhood policing scheme, such schemes work very well. We will try to ensure that the importance of neighbourhood policing is recognised not only in Northamptonshire but throughout the country, regardless of the debate on super-forces. The hon. Gentleman will know that Wellingborough was one of the key locations in Northamptonshire where the scheme was started. I do not have the timetable for when the rest are to be introduced, but he will doubtless find out that information far more readily than I could. Getting these people out on to the streets is extremely important.

There was a meeting at Downing street today to discuss antisocial behaviour—as the hon. Gentleman said, that was astute timing—at which, among other things, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced that we are seriously considering the use of housing benefit sanctions for those who rent in the social sector. However, I take the point, made by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire, that antisocial behaviour is not the preserve of those who rent in the social sector.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reassurance. It is certainly true that powerful levers are available to housing associations and local authorities in dealing with families guilty of persistent antisocial behaviour. However, is there any new thinking on the levers that might be necessary to tackle some of the most persistent and dreadful incidents of antisocial behaviour, which are just as likely to involve owner-occupiers? Indeed, two of the worst cases of antisocial behaviour in my time as an MP—in the Coalville area of my constituency—occurred precisely because no such levers were available.

My hon. Friend makes an entirely fair point. In dealing with such cases, the focus will have to come from a different legislative base. As he suggests, it is through assorted social housing powers and the dimension of housing benefit sanctions that we can fix on those in the social sector. Thought is being given, in a general sense, to how we might deal with those for whom such a sanction does not exist. My own constituency experience shows that it in no way follows that even the most persistent of offenders in an area are from a particular social tendency; it depends entirely on the area in question. The respect action plan provides new standards for housing management, so that social landlords can understand what is expected of them in dealing with misbehaving tenants. We are considering extending that plan to the private rented sector, but that is a small, less burgeoning sector, even in this day and age. A lot is happening.

I take the hon. Gentleman’s point about the impact on policing of low-level inquiries into the “fabric” issues—for want of a better phrase—associated with antisocial behaviour. Such inquiries might better be undertaken by, say, environmental health bodies, councils or others. We are trying to set up an alternative, non-emergency number, called the 101 service. Northamptonshire is included in the third wave of that service. We want to increase awareness, so that people realise that if a car has been abandoned or windows have been broken—such behaviour might encourage those who choose to hang around and make mischief—they can call the 101 number.

When the service is up and running, it will, through the use of a filter, divert the caller to the relevant council department, environmental health body or agency. That will, we hope, take a significant burden away from 999 in the form of the sort of intermediate call that should go to the police station rather than being dealt with in that way, and get some reciprocity in terms of action following soon after our communities have made such an inquiry. That will not solve all the issues, but it does assist in that regard and addresses the important point that the hon. Member for Wellingborough made at the start, which is that someone somewhere should recognise that the consequences of destructive behaviour, or of messing up a particular street scene or park, matter. They matter to local communities, and so should matter to everybody else.

The key to success is the vigilance of local communities, of local councillors and MPs in properly representing their communities, and of all community agencies, including the crime and disorder reduction partnerships, working together. It is also getting a model where neighbourhood policing has far more substance than it has now—and we are trying to do that. I fully concur with the notion that the impact of such antisocial behaviour and yobbery matters because it matters to our communities and to the cohesion of those communities, and that our communities deserve a voice against it. That is what all our legislation on antisocial behaviour has been about, and what all the resources and investment that we have put into policing up and down the country have been about. It is what the respect action plan is about.

Across the Chamber, with the armoury of assorted ways to go forward, and with that voice engaged, with locally elected councillors and the community proper, we can get to the stage at which our communities can feel that someone is listening—I know that that is the frustration—that their voice matters, and that things will be done both about the individuals concerned and the consequences of those individuals’ antisocial behaviour. I again commend the hon. Gentleman and congratulate him on raising this important debate, and on the manner in which he has done so.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at two minutes past Eight o’clock.