Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tackling Crime in Southampton

Crime is a huge problem in Southampton and one of biggest concerns of local people. In addition so called "anti social behaviour" increasingly is a blight on the lives of local people.

The problem has got much worse under Labour and their policies are failing the city.

Labour's Asbos are worn as a batch of pride by young thugs and Dispersal Orders simply move the problem of anti social behaviour from one road or neighbourhood to the next.

Labour have talked tough on crime but they have failed utterly to deliver.
The police are drowning in bureaucracy and paperwork and are not allowed to get on and do their jobs effectively. They are straight jacketed by centrally imposed targets which get in the way of delivering local priorities.

We need more police on the streets. Today only 1 in 59 policemen are actually on the beat. This is a shocking statistic. Locally Southampton's Conservative Councillors want to do all we can to support the police. We have proposed scraping council tax for people that become special constables. In other areas this has helped encourage more people to sign up as specials. If we could recruit an extra 50 or 100 specials in Southampton it would make a big difference. It would also show that we value and respect local people who come forward to help make their communities safer.
We need much greater accountability for the police. Nationally Conservative Party has advocated bringing the police under direct local democratic control. This is something Southampton's Conservatives are very keen on and we believe that we could really improve things if we had the police focusing on local priorities rather than central government targets.

Last year local Conservative councillors fought very hard for the council to take seriously the problem of attacks in the city centre parks. We had to fight tooth and nail to get money for extra lighting but after a long campaign we had some success.

Improving street lighting around the city would make a difference to city safety or certainly perceptions of safety. Thousands of the councils streetlights need replacing and the council is aiming to secure £22m of government PFI money to replace old streetlights. Southampton's

Conservatives backed this and also managed to persuade the council to ensure that its PFI bid included plans for new street lights to have a plug on top of them to allow WiFi CCTV cameras to be installed. This would mean in thousands of locations around the city CCTV could be put in place quickly and cheaply should there be a local need.

We of course need stronger sentencing and there needs to be a real deterrent to would be criminals. However we need to do much more than simply send people to prison for longer.

We should be supporting families in the city, especially those families that have difficulties such as drink or drug problems. We were very pleased that through our positive involvement in this year's budget setting meeting for the city that we were able to keep open all family centres in the city. These centres, in Bitterne, St Marys and Lordshill support families which have serious problems such as domestic violence and drink and drugs and ensure the safety and well being of children in the city. Labour planned to axe £333,000 from the budget for this service. We felt that this would have had a terrible impact in the city and were pleased that we prevented it.

Southampton has been made a Respect Agenda city by the Government. A small amount of additional government money has been made available to the council and this is to be spent on a "super nanny" who will help to improve parenting skills in the city. There is a real irony in that we are receiving this money from the Labour government whilst at the same time local Labour councillors are trying to close down one of the very centres in which this new person will based!

Conservatives believe that we need to provide good leisure facilities for young people and ensure that there are things for them to do. That is one reason why we fought against Labour plans to try and close Oaklands Swimming Pool.

The Council needs to be tough on anti social behaviour. It seems as though it is happy to fine people perceived as an easy target for minor misdemeanours but is reluctant to peruse people who might not pay up.
Where council has leverage such as when dealing with council tenants it should make it clear that unless decent standards of behaviour are adhered to, tenants will be evicted.

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