Crime and Antisocial Behaviour: Slade Road, Birmingham

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:24 pm on 11th June 2019.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions) 5:24 pm, 11th June 2019

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, because it is about support for the vulnerable on the one hand, but early intervention and prevention on the other hand.

For neighbourhood policing at its best, may I give an unusual example from the Stockland Green area? Six years ago, Sergeant Simon Hensley, now the sergeant in Kingstanding, formed a canoeing club on Brookvale Park Lake. I know, because I was asked to launch it on a rather shaky canoe. Some people asked, “What’s canoeing got to do with the police service?” But he had linked up with the local youth service and some of the local voluntary organisations. It involved at one stage hundreds of local young people, helped to form a good relationship between them and the police, and then, when there was an outbreak of burglaries, young people were coming forward, saying, “We think we know who it is, Simon.” So prevention is critical.

We are doing everything we can in Birmingham, but the Government have a responsibility. The police and crime commissioner for Birmingham will visit Slade Road this Friday to see at first hand what can and should be done next. Resource is key, but resource alone is not enough: we need all agencies with responsibility to come together and act. So, together with the police, the police and crime commissioner and the local authority, I will be convening a summit, at which we want to bring around the table the national health service, the mental health trust, the probation service, the Prison Service and the social housing regulator, which, to be frank, has a lot to answer for in respect of how the powers under the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 have been used to register and deregister bad landlords. It is going to be key to bring them together to get a concerted action plan to make a real difference in Slade Road.

Let me say a couple of things in conclusion. I have referred in particular to the rapid growth in the private rented sector and the problems associated with that in the Slade Road area, but I do not want to demonise all landlords. On the contrary, I want to celebrate the good, because there are many good landlords in the area who feel as strongly as we do about the bad ones. The good landlords include Jackie, who I was with only last week, and also the legendary Birmingham City striker Geoff Horsfield, who owns a number of homes in the Stockland Green area and particularly in Slade Road. If one goes to one of Geoff’s houses, one sees a house in good repair with proper support for vulnerable people, helping them to rebuild their lives. He is the opposite of the bad landlords in the picture I have painted.

As far as the bad landlords are concerned, let me serve this notice: I have referred to certain addresses, but it is my intention, in the next stages, to name and shame the bad, as well as to celebrate the good. We are not going to have people who have bought lucrative homes exploiting the vulnerable miles away, then dumping them, without support, in areas of our constituencies such as the Stockland Green area of Slade Road. Some of those landlords will end up in the dock and, if I have anything to do with it, out of business.

Quite frankly, the great community of Slade Road, whether it is the upper end—the Frances Road area—or down the shops at the bottom, has had enough. On the streets or at a surgery, one sees the pain on people’s faces for the place where they grew up in the houses they loved—that great-great-great-granddaughter telling the story about her own home that she and her family had been proud to live in for in excess of 100 years—and it is a pain that is absolutely heartfelt. It is totally unacceptable that that fine community is suffering in the way it is. That has to end, but for that to happen not only the Government but all parties need to play their part in erasing a stain on the history of a great community.