Councils rally against ‘unnecessary’ proposals on antisocial behaviour

Local authorities could be on a collision course with the
government over the implementation of more punitive measures in the
drive to tackle antisocial behaviour.

The Local Government Association annual conference in Harrogate was
told that many councils were failing to enforce antisocial
behaviour orders in favour of more rehabilitative schemes, and were
likely to reject proposals for tougher measures in the Antisocial
Behaviour Bill.

Bridget Fox, joint deputy leader of Islington Council, said many of
the measures in the bill, currently going through parliament, were
either unnecessary or unhelpful. They include introducing fixed
penalty notices for children as young as 10 and cutting housing
benefit for disruptive council tenants.

However, Joe Tuke, deputy director of the antisocial behaviour unit
in the Home Office, said new legal measures were necessary because
people felt let down by local agencies.

He gave an example of a woman with learning difficulties who was
being harassed by local youths. When she complained to her council
she was told to keep a diary of events. She could not read or

“We have to get rid of that shrug of the shoulders, the jobsworth
approach,” said Tuke.

“There’s no room for that attitude anymore.”

Fox said co-operating with offenders was often more effective than
punishing them, such as using acceptable behaviour contracts drawn
up with the police, the housing department and the offender’s

“We do have some concerns at what we see as an enforcement culture.
Being young and in public is being seen as offensive. But young
people are not a social problem, they are a part of our society and
we must not start criminalising behaviour that may only be
antisocial in the eye of the beholder,” she explained.

At a fringe meeting, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson
Simon Hughes branded proposals for on-the-spot fines as “a nonsense
system”, and criticised the government for rolling them out before
pilot studies had been completed and evaluated.

He said Labour had introduced 661 new offences in its six years in
government and called for a reduction in the number of prisonable
offences, instead increasing the use of acceptable behaviour
contracts, probationary tenancies and good citizen training.

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