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House of Commons Hansard
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Antisocial Behaviour: Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire
09 October 2018
Volume 647

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I beg to move,

That this House has considered anti-social behaviour in Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. It was with a mixture of relief and disbelief to the point of amusement that I heard that austerity is over. Perhaps the Prime Minister could let us know when to expect to feel or see any difference, because many of my constituents feel only anger and upset that their lives are blighted by antisocial behaviour. I blame austerity for the unacceptable rise in antisocial behaviour. As always, those who deserve it the very least are expected to pay the highest price. Surely, it is not too much to say that in our modern society, everyone has the right to feel safe and secure at home.

I represent everyone in my constituency whose life has been made a misery by antisocial behaviour. My constituents and I have clear demands and expectations for the Minister that I hope will be listened to carefully and addressed. I want the Government to reverse the 31% funding cuts they have made to Humberside police since 2010. Will the Government follow Labour’s lead by committing to a fully funded statutory youth service, change the school accountability system and increase funding for schools to stop an increasing number of children being off-rolled and excluded? Will they increase funding for social workers and early intervention programmes by increasing the children’s services budget and support community groups with grassroots solutions to antisocial behaviour?

Some people dismiss antisocial behaviour as a mere nuisance, but not me. Crime and antisocial behaviour affect people of all incomes and backgrounds, but unfortunately it seems that the poorest and the most vulnerable are always disproportionately affected. Although antisocial behaviour may be a different category of crime from those that capture the headlines in our national newspapers, it still has a huge impact on the lives of my constituents. One, whose property was vandalised, told me that she worries

“what the next level is, for the perpetrators. What will they do next, where and to whom? Whilst I realise, it’s just to property and not to humans, it’s what it represents, in our society.”

One young man was subjected to daily shouting and swearing from a neighbour and her friend. They damaged his car and personal belongings, constantly banged on his door at all hours of the days, and intimidated him by approaching him when he was outside and looking into his flat’s window when he was inside. That young man had severe mental health problems and was attempting independent living for the first time. This antisocial behaviour caused a huge setback for him. My constituent Chris from Hessle contacted me today to share the frustration and anger of the biker community at the high number of motorbike thefts. The police used to run an operation called Yellowfin, but everything has had to be reduced because of funding cuts.

The first reaction of most people to antisocial behaviour would be to call the police. Before the summer recess, I spent a morning with Humberside police. Whenever I spend time with our public servants, be they nurses, doctors, firefighters or others, I am always amazed by how dedicated they are to their vocation and to helping people. The police were no exception. I hope hon. Members join me in giving special thanks to Inspector Kirsty Tock, who is in my thoughts at this particularly difficult time for her. If it was up to them, all police officers would work every case until they were solved to the victims’ satisfaction, but unfortunately we live in a world of limited resources. Because of the decisions made by this Government, those resources are getting more limited.

Since 2010, Humberside police’s budget has been cut by 31%. In reality, that means 392 fewer officers and 54 fewer police community support officers. In order to service 999 calls, officers and resources are being diverted away from neighbourhood policing because there are simply not enough police officers to do it all. We understand that high-quality, well-resourced neighbourhood policing is vital to deal with antisocial behaviour. Officers who know the area and who know the children and families who need support are crucial to identify when intervention is needed and to gather evidence so that there are consequences for antisocial behaviour. That policing model is broken, because of the cuts. The police have to divert their neighbourhood policing team to deal with 999 emergencies. We need enough police to do both.

The visible police presence in our communities has shrunk and police stations have disappeared. A notable example in my constituency is the complete lack of a police station in Hessle. The Labour group of councillors in Hessle and I completely opposed that move, and we are working with Humberside police to try to ensure that some kind of police presence is brought back.

I do not hold any police officer or PCSO responsible for the rise in antisocial behaviour; I blame the Government and their deliberate choice to cut our public sector—a policy that they have pursued with relish since 2010. In fact, I wholly support our police services; I am as disgusted as they are with the pathetic pay increase that they have just been given. I support an increased police presence, but I do not believe that increasing police numbers will magically solve all the problems associated with antisocial behaviour. In west Hull and Hessle, when the police deal with an antisocial behaviour problem, that problem just moves somewhere else in the constituency. A holistic approach is needed to tackle the problem.

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I congratulate the hon. Lady on bringing forward the debate. I am interested in the issue of antisocial behaviour and I want to suggest some possible solutions. In my constituency, there were high levels of antisocial misbehaviour over a period of time. We took an initiative from the churches, which came together in concern for their community to work alongside a faith-based group called Street Pastors. In conjunction with the council, the police and social services, they have endeavoured to bring antisocial misbehaviour levels down, and they have succeeded. I suggest the Street Pastors initiative to the hon. Lady as something that is outside the normal sphere of what is on offer, and I would be happy to send her the details. I think that initiatives that come from people within the community can achieve change.

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I will certainly look into that initiative.

One of the most striking things about the antisocial behaviour in my constituency, especially in Hessle, is the number of constituents who report young people as the cause. Although this issue is not exclusively about young people, antisocial behaviour tends to be carried out by younger people. Earlier this year, I co-sponsored a Bill brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) to make youth services provision statutory. In his speech to bring in the Bill, my hon. Friend quoted a 2016 survey that found

“600 youth centres had closed around the country, 3,500 youth workers had lost their jobs, and 140,000 places for young people had been lost… In 2010 we spent £1.2 billion on youth work, youth services and related youth activity; last year we spent £358 million…a 68% cash-terms cut.”—[Official Report, 6 June 2018; Vol. 642, c. 314.]

A parent of a child who has been involved in some antisocial behaviour contacted me to ask me for help. She asked,

“Where can my child go? What services are out there? What support can I have?”

Youth services provide a vital role in supporting young people across the country. They are described by Anna Barker, chair of the British Youth Council, as

“a supportive place for young people to become a force for good in society”.

When I look at incredible youth services like The Warren and Hessle youth club, I completely agree. Our youth services have been targeted for budget cuts, which have created the conditions in which crime can thrive, leaving young people vulnerable to violence and denied the opportunity to build a positive future. I am glad that Labour has promised to consult on making those services statutory. I plead with the Minister to look at doing the same.

The Minister will be pleased to know that I am not just asking for more money, but for a change in attitude through a change in policy. As a member of the Education Committee, I am deeply concerned about the increasing number of children being excluded and off-rolled from our schools. A recent study proved that dozens of schools exclude more than one in five children. Those children are not leaving school for a high-quality education somewhere else, but are often found wandering around public spaces in our cities. They have been written off by society at a young age. Is it really a shock that their anger is felt as antisocial behaviour?

The double whammy of this Government’s school accountability system and school funding cuts of £2.8 billion since 2015 have the unintended consequence of driving perverse behaviour by schools to try to remove children who are less likely to achieve and more expensive to educate. A report by the Education Policy Institute found that one in four children referred to children and adolescent mental health services in England is rejected, and that school staff are required to respond to children who self-harm, despite cuts to support services. How effectively does the Minister think schools will be able to support pupils with the staffing cuts they face? What does the Minister think will happen to our children who do not get the support they need in their formative years? We need a new accountability system that values all children, and schools need the funding to support every child.

Good social work can transform people’s lives, protect them from harm and help stop the increase in antisocial behaviour. Helping children and young people to fulfil their potential is a key ambition of all councils, but our children’s services are under increasing pressure. They face a funding gap of around £2 billion by 2020, yet demand for their services has never been higher. Councils seek to support children to live with their families where possible through family-based support and early intervention.

Early intervention is crucial, but how can councils provide it when Government funding for the early intervention grant has been cut by almost £500 million since 2013 and is projected to drop by a further £183 million by 2020? Our councils need more money for early intervention. We can never prove statistically that early intervention prevented someone from engaging in antisocial behaviour, but we can certainly feel what happens in our communities when those services are cut—problems with antisocial behaviour increase.

The Government should follow Labour’s lead and make it easier for tenants and residents associations to come together to deal with antisocial behaviour in their own streets. DARTS in my constituency—each letter represents a different street off Hessle Road—is the perfect example of a tenants and residents association. DARTS is led by Peter and Trevor, who are brilliant, properly no-nonsense people who came together to tackle antisocial behaviour in their area. They get amazing results. I would love there to be a DARTS group in every area of Hull, but Hull City Council has lost one pound in every three since 2010, which has meant cuts to services. It is harder for councils to offer the support that is needed to get such groups up and running—and I am yet to work out how to clone Peter and Trevor.

The Government’s short-sighted and narrow-minded obsession with austerity has created the perfect climate for antisocial behaviour to thrive. Undoing the damage that has been done to communities such as west Hull and Hessle will take time and investment—there is no quick fix. However, if the Minister truly believes austerity is over, she should properly fund and equip our police force and reverse the 31% cut to the Humberside police budget; make youth services statutory, fund them and train youth workers; fund our schools and CAMHS; change the accountability system to stop the unintended consequences of increased exclusions and off-rolling; increase funding for social workers and investment in early intervention; and properly fund councils to support local residents groups to solve problems in their own communities.

I hope the Minister does not insult me or my constituents by claiming that Humberside police have all the money they need, because that simply is not true. I also hope she does not claim that antisocial behaviour is not on the rise. I am sure she is as aware as I am of the number of dropped calls to the 101 service and the number of incidents that actually get reported. If she goes out and talks to people in the community, she will find that most of them never even bother ringing 101 to report antisocial behaviour, because they know they may be on hold for more than 40 minutes.

My constituents and I have had enough. Antisocial behaviour causes problems for nearly everyone in my constituency. We expect action and serious investment. I repeat that we need a holistic approach to dealing with this problem—its causes as well as its consequences. I am afraid we will hold the Government to account if they fail to do anything.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) on securing this debate about a matter that I know is of huge importance to her and her constituents—particularly those who are suffering in the way she so eloquently described. She made a wide-ranging speech, and I will try to respond to as many of her points as I can. I hope she understands that I do not have the details of those that concern other Departments immediately to hand, but I will ask the relevant Minister to write to her about any points to which I do not manage to respond.

Anyone who represents a constituency knows just how terrible antisocial behaviour can be. The hon. Lady will never hear me diminish its impact. Individual incidents sometimes have the most extraordinary effect on communities. So-called low-level behaviour may not seem that significant, but if it develops into a pattern of behaviour it becomes incredibly wearing for those who have to live with it day in, day out. Antisocial behaviour can be anything from people running amok, swearing at people or frightening residents to drunken and drug-related harassment, intimidating behaviour, and noisy and abusive neighbours. All those things can have a profound and debilitating effect on the people we were elected to serve.

That is why the Government gave the police, local authorities and local agencies a range of flexible powers to keep the public safe through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. We fully agree that antisocial behaviour is not just a policing issue, important though policing is in this context. Solutions must often be part of a holistic approach that draws in local authorities and other agencies. We expect those agencies to respond and use those powers flexibly to protect their communities from all types of antisocial behaviour. However, where antisocial behaviour tips over into far more serious offending that is clearly criminal—the hon. Lady will know that serious violence and other forms of criminal behaviour fall within my portfolio—we expect the police and others to use the full force of the law to bring people to justice through the criminal justice system.

The 2014 Act provides six flexible powers, which are designed to enable the police and local authorities to respond quickly to antisocial behaviour in their communities and stop it reoccurring. Those powers include court orders to stop the behaviour of the most antisocial people, powers to close premises that are a magnet for trouble, and powers to stop antisocial behaviour in public places. They also include measures such as civil injunctions, which are interesting because they do not just prohibit people from engaging in certain behaviour but can place positive requirements on perpetrators to address the underlying causes of their antisocial behaviour.

Sadly, there are themes that run through the backgrounds of many of the young people who fall into my portfolio. Domestic abuse is a particularly strong theme, and I am concentrating on protecting direct victims of domestic abuse and on the ramifications for young people who are vulnerable to being ensnared by criminal gangs of witnessing domestic abuse in the home and being desensitised to violence outside the home. The Government and I are looking at many themes to address the background factors that feature in the lives of many young people who behave in an antisocial or indeed criminal way.

Other types of order, such as community protection notices and criminal behaviour orders, are directed at the most harmful behaviour. Local authorities also have the power to impose public spaces protection orders to protect public spaces from antisocial behaviour and nuisance, and the police can use their dispersal power to direct any individual who engages in antisocial behaviour away from a particular place.

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Those powers have been used effectively in Hull, but the Minister will recall—I have spoken about this previously—that they just move the problem somewhere else in the city. We can use only so many of those orders, and they just seem to make the problem appear somewhere else. It is like a game of whack-a-mole—we do not seem to be able to whack them all down at the same time. I was heartened to hear her mention looking at the causes of domestic violence. I wonder whether she will say a little about what we are doing to prevent antisocial behaviour from happening in the first place—not just to deal with it when we see it through criminal convictions, but to look at its causes and how we can stop them.

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I was about to come to that, so I apologise for incorporating my answer into my speech. We want to give people on the ground the ability to use those powers as they feel is appropriate in their local community. The hon. Lady will understand that the challenges in her inner-city area are very different from those in my area of Lincolnshire, which is just down the road from her area but is very rural. Although we have antisocial behaviour, I suspect it takes a different form from that in a city centre, given the local geography and so on.

The Government want to give local people the powers to respond in the most effective way in their local area. Indeed, in December last year we published refreshed guidance on the use of those powers by councils, police officers and so on—we understood that some councils were using PSPOs in particular in a way that was perhaps not intended by Parliament, so we refreshed the guidance to help local councillors. A couple of months ago I spoke to local councillors at the Local Government Association to help them with that.

The hon. Lady asked me about a community response. She will know that as part of the serious violence strategy we are pulling together across all Government Departments, along with local government colleagues, the Mayor of London, police and crime commissioners and Mayors across the country, to try to have a more joined-up approach to serious violence. That will have a beneficial effect on lower-level offending behaviour as well, because if we can help young people with issues at home, mental health issues and so on, as she described, that will have an impact on their behaviour generally. That is why I am delighted that not only are we helping the Vulcan Learning Centre, a local charity in Hull, through the knife crime community fund, which will help local children who are perhaps falling into crime. There is also a bigger, national effort through the early intervention fund for young people announced in the serious violence strategy as well as the endowment fund that the Home Secretary announced last week—£200 million that will be invested in long-term projects to help young people across the county. A great deal of work is going on.

The hon. Lady rightly mentioned concerns about children who are not in full-time education but are perhaps in alternative provision. The Government have commissioned a review by Edward Timpson, the former Care Minister, who has a great understanding on a personal and professional level of the issues facing looked-after children or those in alternative provision. He is looking at alternative provision through the schooling system to see what is working, what is not and what we need to improve. Again, through my work in other areas, I know that that can have an enormous impact on children’s behaviour and their ability to lead productive lives.

If I may, I will let the hon. Lady know about the ability of victims of antisocial behaviour, or someone acting on their behalf, including a Member of Parliament, to request a formal antisocial behaviour case review—I do not know whether she is aware of this—which is called a “community trigger.” I like talking about it, because colleagues should be aware of it and they can use it if requested by their constituents. It enables victims of antisocial behaviour to ensure that their voice is heard when they believe they have not had a satisfactory response to repeated complaints of antisocial behaviour, and it forces agencies to act. The relevant bodies in a local area must agree on and publish their case review procedures. Therefore, if she believes that the relevant agencies in her constituency have not acted on reports of antisocial behaviour in Hull and the East Riding, that is a possible solution for her constituents. I note that her police and crime commissioner cited tackling antisocial behaviour as a priority in his policing plan, so perhaps she can ask him what he is doing to fulfil that pledge to the electorate.

The hon. Lady mentioned the police station in Hessle. Again, that is a decision taken by the PCC, so I hope she will forgive me if I do not comment on it. She also mentioned funding, and I think she said that we “relish” austerity. We really do not. I am always careful not to revisit history in too much detail because, apart from anything else, we should be forward-looking, but the situation in 2010 was that as a country we had run out of money and we had to start to live within our means. That meant we had to take very serious, tough decisions on funding. She will know that the then Home Secretary—now the Prime Minister—insisted that police funding be protected from 2015 onwards, and that last year, as part of the preparations for the police funding formula exercise that happens at the end of every year, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service spoke to every constabulary in the country to ask them what they needed. Through that process, with the help of PCCs, we are able to put a further £460 million into policing this year. I am pleased that that means an increase of £4 million for Humberside constabulary, and it has managed to add 153 officers to its cadre since March last year.

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I am sure the Minister recognises, as everyone out there does, that the number of criminal incidents is increasing, and the cuts have not stopped yet. She talks about the Government giving with one hand, but they are surely taking with the other, because there is still another £14 million to £17 million of savings to be found in the next few years. That will result in job losses for our PCSOs, which will have an impact on antisocial behaviour. I am sure she recognises that.

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I invite the hon. Lady to speak to her PCC—she is not just entitled to do that; it is part of all our duties to hold our PCCs to account. As of March last year—the last figures I have available—her police and crime commissioner had reserves of £34.3 million. To put that in context, the reserves as a percentage of total cash funding for 2017-18 were 20%, which is 5% higher than the average for England and Wales. She could ask her PCC what he is doing with that money.

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The Minister has been generous in giving way. In fact, I meet with the PCC regularly and talked to him about the reserves only last week. They are currently being used to try to increase the number of police officers we have, to mitigate the cuts seen since 2010. I am sure by next year the reserves will not be there any longer.

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That is a matter for the police and crime commissioner. We brought in police and crime commissioners in 2012 precisely to give a local person the power to hold the police and chief constable to account and to spend the police budget in ways they feel are priorities for their local electorate.

As I say, we are injecting more money into policing this year. The Home Secretary has very much listened to the chiefs and police and crime commissioners across the country. We know that policing is changing and that pressures on the police through different crime types are developing. Ten years ago, online child sexual exploitation did not feature, but now, sadly, as the Home Secretary laid out in his recent speech, it is an incredible pressure on policing.

I am conscious of the time, Mr Hollobone, and I do not know whether the hon. Lady wishes to sum up. If she does, I will sit down in a moment. Again, I invite her and colleagues around the House to speak to their local councils about innovative ideas on how to engage young people and help young people who are at risk of falling into trouble.

Yesterday, we had the first of the Home Office’s national programme of engagement events on the serious violence strategy here in London. We had a fantastic turn-out from councils across the capital, including the deputy Mayor for policing in London. I listened carefully to the chief executive of Islington Council, who gave some really interesting ideas on what it has done to protect youth services—what it is doing is really innovative. I urge all colleagues to engage in that conversation with their local councils, because there are some really innovative ideas.

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Order. I am afraid that the Minister has been badly advised by her officials. In a half-hour debate, I am afraid the Member in charge does not have the right of reply. This is now the second time I have been in this Chamber when the Minister has been badly advised. We are going to have to get some advice to Whitehall Departments that in a half-hour debate the Member in charge does not have the right of reply.

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Mr Hollobone, I feel honour-bound to say that it is my mistake. Please direct your understandable consternation towards me, not the officials. That is my fault, and I apologise profusely.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered anti-social behaviour in Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Sitting suspended.