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Antisocial Behaviour

Volume 527: debated on Monday 9 May 2011

Alongside our proposed reforms to police and partners’ powers to tackle antisocial behaviour, we plan to give communities the right to force agencies to take action where they have failed to do so. Elected police and crime commissioners, and street level crime maps, will also increase the focus on the issues that matter most to local people.

I thank the Minister for that response, but seek assurances on what the Government are doing to help ensure that persistent antisocial behaviour is dealt with by local authorities, the police and other agencies, and in particular on how the Government plan to support existing schemes such as Test Valley borough council’s CREW—community respect and environment week—initiative.

Clearly, antisocial behaviour is, at its core, a local issue, so it lends itself to local solutions. As 10,000 incidents are reported every day, I doubt whether any Member will not have a constituency case that touches on the subject. The powers on which we are consulting until 17 May are very much about local communities and equipping local agencies to deal with the problems they see, trusting their judgment to get on with the job.

Further to the Minister’s response, how will constituents in my York Outer constituency be able to use the proposed community triggers to force police authorities and local councils to tackle antisocial behaviour?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting the proposal on which we are consulting, which aims to enable communities to ensure that the police and local councils come together to respond to complaints that perhaps are not being addressed effectively. This is a positive way to deliver action, responding to the problems of antisocial behaviour in communities. We think that this is an important reform and we propose to take it forward.

What additional programmes will be introduced to stop perpetrators of antisocial behaviour bringing misery to communities that just want safe streets and the rule of law and order?

My hon. Friend makes his point very well. We have been working closely with the housing Minister to ensure stronger powers to evict those who are most responsible for antisocial behaviour on housing estates. There must be proper deterrents to ensure that relief is given to hard-pressed communities that are suffering as a result of such behaviour.

The police in Great Yarmouth have done excellent work in preventing antisocial behaviour by early intervention with voluntary local groups such as the Kickz project. Does the Minister agree that such intervention can have a hugely beneficial impact, and will that be reflected in the new proposals?

I congratulate the communities in my hon. Friend’s constituency on the practical measures they are taking to prevent antisocial behaviour. When interventions, orders and sanctions are required, it is important that they can be obtained speedily. As that has not happened in the past, the need for the police and local authorities to be able to secure the orders they require quickly is at the core of our proposals.

Fiona Pilkington and her daughter committed suicide after suffering years of abuse from youths in Leicestershire. As the Minister will recall, the inquest jury noted that they had contacted the police 33 times, but that no link had been made between the complaints that had been made. The Government are rightly examining police performance. Will the Minister assure the House that this issue will remain a priority? The only way of preventing such tragedies is to ensure an immediate and serious police response.

I agree very much with the right hon. Gentleman. We have taken practical measures with police forces around the country to ensure that when complaints are made issues of vulnerability and repeat calls are picked up quickly, and so that tragic cases such as that of Fiona Pilkington can be identified much more efficiently and effectively. The provision of that practical relief is an important part of the changes we are seeking.

I am sorry, but all this talk about community triggers and community maps is just a load of guff. The South Wales police force area contains two large cities that have to be policed. A large number of royal occasions and sporting events have to be policed. The last problem to which any time is devoted, especially when major cuts are being made to the South Wales police budget, is antisocial behaviour in areas such as the Rhondda. What will the Minister do to ensure that the police are given the instructions they need to tackle the real problems that people face, and that there is money with which to tackle it?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman got to the question in the end. I remind him again of our responsibility and of the problems the Labour party left us, because there is still no recognition of that. We are giving the police the power they need to respond to the problems in the hon. Gentleman’s community and the communities of other Members throughout the House.

The Minister wants to introduce some form of direct election to improve accountability in local policing. Is he listening to the people of Greater Manchester, where the Government’s cut of nearly 1,400 police officers, which would have a disastrous effect on the battle against antisocial behaviour, was rejected so resoundingly on 5 May?

Here is another hon. Member who is still in denial. We believe that the financial settlement is fair and manageable, and that it need not have an impact on the fight against crime and antisocial behaviour on our streets. We are giving the police and local authorities the powers they need to respond to the problem, and, unlike the Labour party, which failed to deal with it in so many ways, we are committed to taking action to provide relief for our communities.

Given that the proposed criminal protection injunctions will weaken the sanctions available to the courts to punish and deter those engaging in antisocial behaviour, is it not clear that, at least in this instance, the “soft on crime” Liberal Democrat voice is being heard loud and clear in the Home Office?

The hon. Lady is wrong on that point, and I remind her of what the victims commissioner, Louise Casey—the antisocial behaviour tsar under the previous Government—said when we launched our consultation on the new antisocial behaviour powers:

“I am heartened by the announcement of the new proposals today that put tough enforcement action against perpetrators at the centre.”

The hon. Lady might not see or recognise it, but that is the case.

Nottinghamshire police have made good progress on antisocial behaviour over the past 12 months by getting police officers out from behind their desks and on to the streets, but does my hon. Friend agree that they are not assisted by being bound to their 25-year private finance initiative contract, signed by the previous Administration?

As my hon. Friend makes clear, a number of the PFI and other contracts that were entered into did not necessarily deliver good value for money. On the costs that fall locally, we are working with forces to identify savings in operational PFI projects, including the option of renegotiating contracts to ensure ongoing value for money and service to our community.