4 Nov 2014

Yobs debate is out of control

It’s not surprising that local politicians have been holding forth about the problem of anti-social behaviour in Birkenhead. The figures speak for themselves. ASB is a huge issue for many, many people, an enormous blight on our communities and is placing a massive strain on public resources

But is comparing Birkenhead to Beirut and chastising the police and other public agencies really the answer? Or, is the approach of a general election bringing forth simplistic solutions from those our community looks to for leadership.

Looked at through the lens of relentless austerity and the rise in anti-social behaviour is surely inevitable.

For almost five years the people of Birkenhead have been subjected to a ruthless attack. Benefit cuts and welfare sanctions, massive reductions in public services and the hollowing out of local government, the perverse bedroom tax, the explosion of zero hours contracts and poverty pay, soaring tuition fees and the pernicious impact of payday lending companies, the rise in fuel poverty and the relentless drop in living standards.

Those at the sharp end can see the cumulative impacts – social workers, police, teachers, health professionals are all expected to pick up the pieces from the relentless assault on civilised society.

I know from first hand experience that the police and other services are working extremely hard to deal with incredibly challenging conditions. I’m sure they welcome constructive suggestions on how best to cooperate with other agencies. I’m also sure that the public criticism we have recently seen is counter productive and just makes dealing with anti-social behaviour even harder. It can only be negative for staff morale already battered by cuts in funding. Comparing Birkenhead to Beirut is an insult to the plight of the Palestinian people and discourages those who want to invest in our area and create badly needed employment.

If we want to seriously address anti-social behaviour we have to address the underlying causes. Austerity is a disaster and has to end. But, incredibly, it’s not just the Tories and Lib Dems who persist with austerity despite its trail of carnage. Labour too is committed to years more austerity and further cuts in benefits and public services.

No wonder people are losing hope.

The answer to rising ASB and other social ills has to include an end to austerity. We need a fair taxation system that addresses inequality and ensures the wealthy start paying their fair share. We need a reversal to public sector cuts and a fundamental reappraisal of the role of public servants and the crucial role they play in our communities. We need investment in housing to end fuel poverty and create employment. We need free and fair access to education and a renewed sense of hope for young people.

The roots of rising anti-social behaviour lie in the failed experiment that is austerity. We need politicians to wake up to that reality rather than offer simplistic solutions that dodge the real issue.

3 comments:

  1. Totally agree, Pat (except Beirut's in Lebanon...)

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  2. Correct me if I am wrong, but a cursory glance at Wikipedia seems to indicate that the Palestinians very much bore the brunt of this episode of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

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  3. There are 3 comments on the Wirral Globe article on the subject from 'gsowglo' http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/11584185.Green_councillor_takes_a_swipe_at_Birkenhead_MP_over_Globe_s__Beirut__interview/?action=success#comments (it's not possible to link to individual comments by the looks)

    I think essentially my point is one of ensuring people working and living in Birkenhead who are willing to attempt to do something about anti-social behaviour are actually able to take concrete steps. One approach at least.

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