City given £125,000 to tackle yobish behaviour

LORNA MARSH Norwich was yesterday revealed as one of 40 beacon areas handpicked as examples of how to tackle yobbish behaviour.

LORNA MARSH

Norwich was yesterday revealed as one of 40 beacon areas handpicked as examples of how to tackle yobbish behaviour.

The city council was named as a champion of the government's Respect Action Plan (RAP) as the initiative celebrated its first anniversary.

It will mean funding of £125,000 to help drive forward the city's work in trying to stamp out anti-social behaviour.

Hilary Armstrong, the government's social exclusion minister, visited the Vauxhall Street area of Norwich yesterday to announce the news and speak to residents about their problems.

She emphasised the importance of "early intervention" and the offering of support to problem families. One of the features of the RAP is help parents ensure their children are disciplined and attend school and enable them to organise themselves to train or get work.

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Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said: "This is recognition of the work that is going on here. The government is saying well done for the crackdown, the prevention and the partnership work and of course that is something we will continue to do.

"The government has then lifted the pots off the lids of money to extend and add value to the work we are doing.

"It is important that residents have peace of mind that something is being done in their area to make them feel safer."

Norwich joins Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle as a Respect "exemplar" as part of the £6m national initiative.

Prime minister Tony Blair said: "The key to tackling anti-social behaviour successfully lies in local communities. Central government can provide the powers and the resources, as we are, but it is the police, local authorities and local people who have to use them effectively to deliver results.

"Communities know where the problems are - and they now know too how best to use new powers to tackle them.

"We have seen real progress with communities across the country making full use of the powers we have put in place with councils, police, courts and local people working in partnership to make neighbourhoods safer and better places to live.

"We want to extend this good practice across the country and encourage those championing the fight against anti-social behaviour to build on their good work.

"That's the aim of the Respect areas which we are encouraging to go further and faster."

Already the government's latest weapon in its fight against anti-social behaviour has sparked a cynical response from opposition ministers.

Shadow minister for police reform Nick Herbert said communities suffering from anti-social behaviour did not want gimmicks such as "Respect handbooks" but rather needed police officers on the streets to help tackle the problem.

He said the government had failed to evaluate the success of its anti-social behaviour measures and had cut 4,000 promised police community support officers from the forces in the 40 chosen areas.

But the government's "respect tsar" Louise Casey said: "This is no gimmick. This is a very serious business. It's about getting parents to be more in control in their own homes and keeping up the unrelenting drive to tackle antisocial behaviour and that is happening across the country."

The Home Office said the local authorities would be expected to use the full range of schemes and powers available to them including:

Family intervention projects to tackle "neighbours from hell".

More parenting classes for parents struggling with troublesome children.

Face the people sessions where the police, local authorities and others could be accountable to their local public.

Asbos and other measures designed to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Chief executive of Norwich City Council Laura McGillivray said yesterday's launch was more about prevention than cure, tackling the cause of anti-social behaviour.

"We have a lot of good work going on in the city which has now been recognised. In particular we have a family support scheme working with chaotic families," she said.

"Once acceptable behaviour contracts are issued the horse is out of the stable. We want to keep the horse in the stable. Instead of waiting for bad habits to form we want to get kids to class for example and parents to train, to help families beset by problems."

Ms Casey said: "We want the 40 areas to show how we can take the programme forward and point people in the right direction as well as keeping up the unrelenting drive to tackle anti-social behaviour.

"These are the areas that are doing parenting classes and family projects that tackle the really, really difficult people in our communities."

A Safer Norwich Partnership Open Day will take place on Thursday at the Vauxhall Centre, Johnson Place, Norwich, from 1.30pm-7pm for residents to have their say in how they think the money should be spent.