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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 October, 2003, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Blunkett targets nuisance neighbours
Blair wants a new sense of community
Neighbours who spoil the lives of law-abiding people in their communities will face tough action in a new campaign, Home Secretary David Blunkett has promised.

Under plans announced earlier this year, the worst offenders could be relocated, while others could see their tenancy contracts reduced from 12 to six months, be sent to parenting classes or issued with fixed penalty notices.

On Tuesday, Mr Blunkett and Prime Minister Tony Blair set out a new action plan to enforce the measures, which also target beggars and abandoned cars.

The plans targets 10 "trailblazer" areas - places which will receive support from the government's anti-social behaviour unit to address problems in their communities.

NUISANCE NEIGHBOUR 'TRAILBLAZERS'
Birmingham
Manchester
Sheffield
Sunderland

Four of the areas will focus on nuisance neighbours, five on begging and two on abandoned cars.

A series of "expert" panels will be set up, linking professionals in areas such as crime reduction, health and social services, to help address the issues.

Sentencing guidelines have also been agreed with magistrates.

And a new phone line and website to give advice to local agencies trying to tackle nuisance behaviour is also to be launched early next year.

Gang escalation

At the launch, Mr Blair said if the new legislation was not enough, he would introduce new powers.

But he said it was unacceptable for powers to be used in one part of the country but not in others.

He said: "To the police, housing officers, local authorities - we've listened, we've given you the powers, and it's time to use them...

"We owe it to the victims of anti-social behaviour - often the poorest in society - to get our act together."

Mr Blunkett, who is calling for a "step change" in efforts against nuisance behaviour, said the scheme was not about "bashing" young people.

BEGGING 'TRAILBLAZERS'
Brighton
Bristol
Leeds
Camden and Westminster

He went on: "There is no point in this garbage from the '60s and '70s about being non-judgemental. You can't be non-judgemental when you are living next door to the family from hell."

People who failed to do the job at local level had to be held to account, he argued.

Earlier, Mr Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that action against anti-social behaviour had to be taken by local councils but with coordination, funding and legislation from central government.

He said the plans were designed to make sure "that when the police, housing officers and environmental health do their job, the courts don't let them down".

He wants police, with local councils' agreement, to be able to disperse gangs as soon as they see them.

Begging concerns

Adam Sampson, from homelessness charity Shelter, warned ministers not to play politics with short term punitive measures against beggars rather than tackling the causes.

The home secretary agreed that preventive measures were needed and said begging was only a "tiny" part of the plans but needed to be tackled.

ABANDONED CAR 'TRAILBLAZERS'
London
Liverpool

Jan Berry, head of the Police Federation, said: "It is extremely frustrating for police officers to try to remove some of these young people from the streets when all they see is them going back onto the streets with no real sanction taking place."

Kevin Morris, head of the Police Superintendent's Association of England and Wales, said ministers should leave officers to work out with local leaders how to tackle problems on the ground.

The action plan aims to build on the government's flagship Anti-Social Behaviour Bill, which should become law by the New Year, and the work of its Anti-Social Behaviour Unit, which has been touring Britain since it was set up in January.

Alcohol treatment

At the conference used for the launch, Martin O'Malley, the Mayor of Baltimore, told how violent crime had been cut in what was the most violent city in America in 1999.

In one of the "trailblazer" areas, Louise Casey, director of the anti-social behaviour unit, found that 300 people at one public meeting were complaining about only three nuisance families.

HAVE YOUR SAY
They are unfortunately just a cure rather than prevention
Reg Pither, England

In "trailblazer" areas, nuisance neighbours could find themselves enlisted on parenting classes, losing their right to buy their council home, having their tenancy contract curtailed, given advice on housing or issues relating to alcohol.

Begging will become a recordable offence so that numbers of incidents are logged. Offenders could then face drug or alcohol treatment.

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin questioned whether the scheme was "just another headline-grabbing initiative, or whether it will bring lasting improvement".

Liberal Democrat spokesman Mark Oaten said tackling nuisance behaviour had to go beyond just catching and excluding culprits and should find ways to bring offenders back into the law-abiding community.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Richard Bilton
reports on anti-social behaviour from Leeds



SEE ALSO:
Loathe thy neighbour?
12 Aug 03  |  Magazine
Anti-yob moves 'are vote ploy'
08 Apr 03  |  Politics
Test bed for the Blunkett plan
12 Mar 03  |  England


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