Antisocial measures will not work without extra funds, say councils

16 Oct 03
Local government leaders have called for long-term sustainable funding to ensure that the latest plans to crack down on antisocial behaviour are a success.

17 October 2003

Local government leaders have called for long-term sustainable funding to ensure that the latest plans to crack down on antisocial behaviour are a success.

The heat is on local authorities to deliver on Home Secretary David Blunkett's new fear-of-crime initiative, launched with a fanfare – and dire threats for failure – this week. But doubts have already been voiced about the level of funding available.

Richard Grant, chair of the Local Government Association's community safety panel, warned that the proposals on their own were not a solution to the menace of antisocial behaviour. They needed to be backed by resources that tackled the underlying factors.

'Local councils are concerned with addressing the causes of antisocial behaviour and that is quite resource-intensive,' he told Public Finance. 'Enforcement is just the filling in the sandwich.'

He added that resources should be made available to allow successful pilot projects to be rolled out to all councils.

As part of the Home Office's wide-ranging antisocial behaviour action plan, police and councils have been granted new powers to get tough with nuisance neighbours, aggressive beggars, graffiti artists and other offenders. The initiatives are backed by a cash injection of £75m, announced in March, to be spread over three years.

At the launch, Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was unable to give a commitment on resource levels ahead of councils' annual funding settlement. 'We will give the money we have said we will allocate,' he said. 'Local authorities have to look at whether they are spending money sensibly.'

Blunkett issued a stark warning to council and police officers who fail to tackle antisocial behaviour. 'If they don't do the job, then chief officers should simply get rid of them,' he said.

Blunkett added that he was tired of the 'garbage from the 1960s and 1970s' about taking a non-judgemental attitude to problem families. 'You can't be non-judgemental when you're living next door to the family from hell,' he said.

Under the plan, 'Trailblazer' areas have been identified. They will concentrate on one of the three priority areas of nuisance neighbours, begging and environmental crime. In both Birmingham and Manchester, 150 'nuisance' households have been identified and are to be targeted by March 2005, while Brighton, Bristol and Leeds are charged with reducing the number of beggars by at least 60% over the same period.

Gill Mitchell, chair of the community safety forum at Brighton and Hove City Council, told PF that she was 'very confident' that the council would be able to meet its begging reduction target because preliminary work with the police and other agencies was already under way.

She said the council had identified 22 persistent beggars and was working closely with the Big Issue organisation to help them.

London and Liverpool will focus on the removal of abandoned cars. From October 2004, they will be empowered to remove all those that are untaxed or abandoned within 72 hours of reporting.


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