We have provided practitioners with a toolkit to tackle antisocial behaviour, which they operate according to local priorities. In Wirral, a multidisciplinary antisocial behaviour team operates many initiatives, based on prevention and enforcement, that engage, educate and promote awareness among young people, engage with residents and tackle antisocial behaviour in families. Neighbourhood policing is also important in combating antisocial behaviour, as I witnessed on my visit to Bromborough police station in Wirral.
Does my hon. Friend recall from his visits to Wirral that what bothers my constituents in particular about local policing is that officers are constantly withdrawn—albeit to important duties elsewhere on Merseyside—and that that situation will be greatly exacerbated when Liverpool is European capital of culture in 2008, especially in the absence of more Home Office funding? Does he agree, however, that a key way of combating antisocial behaviour is not just bobbies on the beat and more laws, but considerably less tolerance?
One of the key reforms that the Government have introduced is neighbourhood policing, which, as my hon. Friend knows, has been introduced in every area from April 2007. However, from April 2008 there will be a dedicated neighbourhood policing team in every area, which means that his constituents in Wirral, as elsewhere, will know that officers who are supposed to be—and who one would expect to be—in their area, are there, policing. With him, I saw for myself the important and good work that police officers and police community support officers are doing in Wirral. He will be reassured to know that they told me that their approach is to ensure that they enforce the law, and to have zero tolerance of the so-called lesser offences that, as he knows, are often the very ones that drive our constituents mad.
Had my hon. Friend stopped two minutes before visiting my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Ben Chapman), he could have visited a superb pubwatch scheme run by publicans in Neston and supported directly by the Neston police. One aspect of the scheme that has helped tremendously has been the roll-out, with the support of Cheshire police, of CCTV, thereby providing a fantastic network. Will the Minister help to promote such schemes and expand them to other parts? I am thinking especially of the sharing of information across the border with the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South.
Neston sounds like a place where I should have stopped. Pubwatch schemes up and down the country provide a huge benefit not only to licensed premises but to local communities in which they operate. The schemes operate in many different ways in different areas, and it is for local areas to decide the best way for their schemes to operate. The most successful schemes share information not only with pubs and licensed premises in their own area, but across borders. I am sure that people from the pubwatch scheme in Neston will have heard what my hon. Friend has to say.