We are committed to tackling antisocial behaviour and to recruiting 20,000 additional police officers, which will take us to our highest number ever. We expanded the safer streets fund to include the tackling of antisocial behaviour as one of its primary aims, and last year we published the ASB principles to establish a strong and effective partnership response to antisocial behaviour.
One challenge we have in Crewe and Nantwich on antisocial behaviour is groups of people at bus stops, on high streets and in other public spaces drinking alcohol all day long. That puts off families and elderly people, in particular, from making use of those public spaces. In theory, public spaces protection orders should work, but they can be burdensome to get into place. May we meet to discuss how we might make it easier for them to be enacted, in order to reduce that kind of behaviour in towns and cities?
My hon. Friend is right to focus on the blight that antisocial behaviour causes to communities. He mentions existing powers that the police have. We are keen to ensure that those are streamlined and improved so that they are more effective. I am pleased that his local force of Cheshire has more police officers on the beat—316 in the force. Following my visit, I was pleased to meet his outstanding local chief constable last month.
We have seen significant antisocial behaviour and crime issues in Longton town centre. With Staffordshire police and the city council, we have been working up plans to improve CCTV and to gate up a number of alleyways. However, we need additional funding to deliver that, so will my right hon. and learned Friend update us on when the next round of the safer streets fund will open for bids?
I am pleased that those in my hon. Friend’s constituency are starting to draw up plans for the next round of the safer streets fund. He will know what a difference safer streets has made to Stoke-on-Trent, with neighbourhood crime down by 26% since 2010. I cannot give him a precise date on the next round, but I can assure him that we hope to be able to say something more about safer streets in the near future.
Government austerity measures led to Northumbria police losing more than 1,100 police officers and to a huge increase in antisocial behaviour in my constituency, with thefts in local shops in East Boldon and Hebburn, and off-road motorbikes in Wardley and Boldon. The incident levels are so high that this week I am having a specific surgery with the police and crime commissioner in Wardley. When will Ministers allow recruitment to vacant policing posts, invest in our communities and tackle antisocial behaviour?
I am pleased that Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner has received just under £3.9 million from the Government through safer streets to date. That has included £3.5 million in the current round to fund projects such as community engagement, target hardening and guardianship interventions. Those are measures where Government funding targeted in local communities, in response to input from local leaders, is making a difference to safety in our communities.
I recently attended an open meeting in Oswestry in my constituency, where residents expressed concern about escalating antisocial behaviour in the town centre. The police and crime commissioner was there, but I am afraid to say that he was a little dismissive. Will the Home Secretary assure me that when the new police officers materialise, they will be properly allocated to market towns in rural places such as North Shropshire, so that the antisocial behaviour is dealt with effectively?
It is thanks to this Government’s commitment to increasing the number of police officers that we will have many more resources on the frontline in forces throughout the country to tackle antisocial behaviour. I only wish that the hon. Lady would get behind our plans.
I see from the weekend papers that the Conservatives are about to introduce an antisocial behaviour strategy. After 13 years of doing nothing, of dismissing antisocial behaviour as low level and unimportant, apparently the strategy will include Labour’s plan to tackle fly-tipping, Labour’s plan to tackle graffiti and Labour’s plan for community payback. May I ask the Home Secretary which other Labour policies she is going to adopt? Would she like me to arrange a full briefing from the Labour party?
This is going to get tedious in the run-up to the local elections.
It really is, isn’t it, Mr Speaker? May I point out that Labour-run Croydon Council has just cut the graffiti cleaning team? Will the hon. Lady just give us some advice on how that has worked?