Antisocial behaviour is 'biggest barrier' to levelling up, report warns

Antisocial behaviour is the “biggest barrier” to levelling up communities, a new report has warned.

Research by the right wing Onward think tank said that unsafe streets are the public’s top priority when it comes to improving local areas.

It found that the country has five top targets for levelling up: tackling antisocial behaviour, revitalising high streets, supporting sport and culture, boosting local growth, and supporting the most vulnerable.

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The research was conducted in ‘left behind’ communities across the UK including Oldham, Walsall, South Tyneside, Clacton, and Barry.

It singled out “hotspot policing” in problem areas as a key intervention, with 5 per cent of neighbourhoods responsible for over 50 per cent of crimes.

The think-tank said that in Oldham, large numbers of young people “loitering at bus stops and stations”, combined with on-board harassment, has restricted connectivity and hollowed out town centres.

One resident said “you take your life in your hands for a £3.60 return”, the report noted.

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The report provided several “low-cost” steps that local leaders can take using their current powers and resources.

These included fixing street lighting, cleaning up graffiti, and repairing “blighted” buildings.

The report also recommended using legislation to force rogue landlords to let out vacant properties and repair shop fronts, in addition to transferring the ownership of historic buildings to new charitable bodies.

Adam Hawksbee, deputy director at Onward said: “Antisocial behaviour must be a top priority for levelling up.

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“Without people feeling safe on their own streets, efforts to boost economic growth and unlock opportunity will be wasted.

“Our new report provides a practical guide to leaders looking to tackle low-level crime, and deal with the other common challenges we found.

“People often ask what levelling up means and looks like, the answers can be found at a local level.”

Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, is currently heading-up the Government’s antisocial behaviour drive following Rishi Sunak’s speech last month where he listed it as a key priority.

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In a wide-ranging speech, seen as an attempt to re-set his premiership following the new year, he said antisocial behaviour can be a “gateway to more extreme crimes”.

The Prime Minister said he wanted to provide fresh powers to ensure “these crimes will be quickly and visibly punished”.

Later that month it was revealed that ministers were considering banning the sale and use of laughing gas.

Mr Gove had previously promised the Government “will tackle public drug-taking, including the use of nitrous oxide”.

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Labour has also pledged to crack down on antisocial behaviour as part of its levelling up plans.

Sir Keir Starmer said last month that it was a key element to his party’s “take back control” message.

“If you don’t have a secure job, you don’t have control,” he told reporters in January.

“If you feel you can’t go out in the dark because of antisocial behaviour, you don’t have control.”

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Mr Gove yesterday announced an increase in funding for local authorities which will help councils cope with increased pressures due to inflation.

The Government confirmed £60bn for local authorities to deliver vital service, including rural communities.

Mr Gove said: “Every day councils across the country deliver for their communities and play a crucial role in driving forward levelling up.

“This funding package represents an increase of over 9 per cent for councils on last year, ensuring a fair deal for local government that reflects the vital work councils do to provide key services on which we all rely.”