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Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Yobs face 'payback' plan
Run down housing estate
The aim is to clear up run down housing estates
A series of initiatives to clean-up the urban environment have been unveiled by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Young vandals could be forced to pick up litter and remove graffiti under a planned Community Payback Scheme.

Young offenders take something out of society through their offending

Tony Blair

Mr Blair also signalled that a stick and carrot approach could be employed as part of the war against yob culture.

Young people on high crime estates who stay out of trouble and are prepared contribute to their communities could be rewarded with clothes and music vouchers.

But shadow environment secretary Archie Norman said that Mr Blair's speech underlined "the bankruptcy" of government policy towards the inner cities.

Mr Norman produced a document published by Labour in 1997 which committed the party to take action against graffiti.

"It has taken him four years to repeat a threadbare pledge and to fail to deliver anything for our inner cities," he said.


Mr Norman's comments came as the Conservatives launched their "Save Our Green Fields" battlebus.

The bus includes a caricature of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott riding a bulldozer over green fields.

It will tour the countryside over the next few months to highlight what the Tories claim are Labour's plans to concrete over the rural areas.

"The next Conservative government will abolish John Prescott's housebuilding targets within the first weeks of taking office," Mr Norman said

Earlier, Mr Blair told community representatives at a conference in Croydon that a re-elected Labour government would take six steps towards improving the quality of life in neighbourhoods up and down the country.

The move is part of the government's high profile drive to crackdown on "yob culture" and anti-social behaviour.

Legislation is already going through parliament to bring in fixed penalty fines for "yobbish" behaviour.

The Community Payback Scheme will force criminals to compensate the community they have harmed and make them realise the seriousness of their actions.

Ministers hope it will nip anti-social behaviour in the bud.

Reparation Orders

Mr Blair said: "Young offenders take something out of society through their offending. We will make sure they put something back."

Downing Street says the aim is to develop a stronger emphasis on the use of Reparation Orders - introduced by the government in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 - in the treatment of young offenders.

They can already be forced to repair damage to a householder's property but the orders could be extended to cases where there is no identifiable victim, such as vandalism of a bus shelter.

Mr Blair said improving the quality of community life was not just about beating crime.

Problems ranging from loutish behaviour to gangs on street corners, abandoned cars and dangerous, poorly-lit roads also needed to be tackled, he said.

And he promised that communities would be allowed to take control themselves over measures to improve their own neighbourhoods.

Local solutions

"Tackling these problems requires local control and local solutions," said the prime minister.

"Central government's role is to give local people and local government the freedoms and support they need to tackle those issues."

Alongside the Community Payback Scheme the five other measures he unveiled are:

  • Moves aimed at reducing the time it takes to remove abandoned cars to within 24 hours.

    Pilot schemes would be introduced first, including London.

  • Legislation to allow local councils to keep the proceeds from fines for offences including vandalism and littering to fund 'quality of life' improvements.

  • Legislation to encourage local businesses to contribute to improvement projects through a voluntary and supplementary business rate.

  • Trebling the funds for neighbourhood wardens to a total of 50m.

  • Wardens complement the police and try to combat nuisance behaviour.

  • A new 30m fund to create home zone schemes to provide, for example, better walkways and cycleways.

    Downing Street says Mr Blair believes the new initiatives are at the "heart of the government's rights and responsibilities' agenda".

    "To tackle small problems can create big benefits. It is right we help local people and local government to develop local solutions," a spokesman said.

    The BBC's Jonathan Beale
    "Prime Minister, Tony Blair, insists his proposals would improve peoples quality of life"
    The BBC's Carolyn Quinn
    "It is all part of an on-going programme"
    The BBC's Gillian Hargreaves
    "As yet it is too early to say if the scheme works"

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    See also:

    29 Jan 01 | e-cyclopedia
    19 Jan 01 | UK Politics
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    28 Nov 00 | UK Politics
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