Session 2004-05, dated 5 April 2005
Anti-social behaviour report
The Home Affairs Select Committee today publishes a report on anti-social behaviour, focusing on three main aspects: anti-social behaviour by young people, nuisance neighbours, and alcohol-related disorder in town and city centres.
The report welcomes the suggestion from the British Crime Survey that fewer people perceive anti-social behaviour to be a problem in their area, although a consistent trend over time would be needed to draw firm conclusions. In general, it welcomes the measures taken by the Government so far and concludes that the necessary legislation is now in place.
The report rejects claims that the Government's policies are overwhelmingly punitive towards children. The balance between prevention and enforcement in the Government's anti-social behaviour strategy is about right.
The Committee concludes that the Government's strategy is being undermined by different philosophies, methods and tactics amongst key players. It calls for social services departments and others to reconsider whether by attaching greater importance to tackling anti-social behaviour, they could actually achieve more in relation to perpetrators with support needs than they are doing at present.
It recommends that the Government responds to this key finding by incentivising partnership working and by reviewing existing funding mechanisms. The Government is making substantial resources available for preventive work but it is not clear that this always reaches whose need is greatest or key delivery organisations like social services.
On alcohol-related disorder, the report calls for local authorities to use existing powers to set minimum prices for alcohol and to target irresponsible promotions. It recommends that mandatory contributions are taken from alcohol outlets in order to pay for the aggregate effects of large-scale drunkenness in public places. In the long term, it argues that the emphasis has to shift to proper city planning, in its widest sense, if problems of alcohol-related disorder are to be fully addressed.
Commenting, Committee Chairman Rt Hon John Denham MP said:
"Our inquiry confirmed that problems of anti-social behaviour have not been exaggerated by the Government or played up by the media: indeed, even apparently small problems can often have a disproportionate impact on people's lives.
"The Government has shown a real commitment to tackling these problems. The Committee was particularly impressed with the reputation of the Home Office Anti-social Behaviour Unit amongst practitioners. The Government has invested substantial resources for preventative measures and created the necessary powers.
"The key now is making sure that at local level, all the relevant agencies come on board. Our concern is that some organisations are rejecting the current anti-social behaviour strategy as too punitive, but foregoing the chance to influence how this strategy is carried out at local level. The funding mechanisms need to be reviewed to ensure that money can reach the right people through the most appropriate organisations.
"On alcohol-related disorder, the attention on 24-hour licensing misses the point: problems of disorder are occurring now. Effective enforcement, mandatory contributions from pubs and super-clubs and minimum pricing policies all have a role to play. But the underlying problem is of too many people drinking heavily in small geographical areas and the focus of longer-term policy should be on proper city planning, with diverse activities supported by adequate transport and other facilities.