Archive article from The Socialist Issue 388
Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) A socialist approach
ALL THE main parties in this election are focusing on crime, and in particular anti-social behaviour by young people.
Working-class people are the most likely to be the victims of crime and anti-social behaviour and are therefore understandably concerned about them.
But the knee-jerk policies of New Labour, Tories and Liberals do nothing to seriously tackle them.
On the contrary, it is their 'anti-social' policies of cuts and privatisation which make the situation worse. Below we feature three examples of the approach that the Socialist Party has taken to these issues.
Community action in Coventry
ST MICHAELS Ward has the highest unemployment in Coventry. Outside the city's main areas investment in community and youth facilities has suffered and issues involving young people and local residents have grown.
Rob Windsor, Coventry
A year ago these problems came to my attention when I was representing St Michaels as a Socialist councillor.
A group of young people were playing ball games and bothering residents including a man with a heart condition. Local residents were fuming. There was a clear possibility of an "us and them" situation between them and the youth involved.
I helped set up a meeting attended by over 35 local residents. The police and community wardens also came.
The meeting was angry but constructive, partly due to the tone we set that there was a lack of local facilities for young people.
It would have been easy just to demand that the police turned up heavy-handedly but instead we used the local warden service to approach the youth.
They did so and discussed with them - one young lad was excluded from school and had nothing to occupy him.
The wardens helped set up a course for him and helped occupy others.
The police were involved and their presence increased but not in a heavy-handed way. Within a month the problems had dissipated in that area.
There were sporadic problems and news that problems had shifted to other streets but for a good few months the area was quieter.
A heavy-handed approach would not have got this result - it may even have exacerbated it.
Stretched police resources would in any case have made such an approach impossible to sustain.
Whilst New Labour's Anti Social Behaviour Bill had some measures that working-class people would support such as closure of crack houses and measures against fly-tipping, it helped to create a myth that deep rooted social problems can be tackled by bits of paper and bureaucracy.
In reality the prisons are overcrowded and the courts can't cope. And the more ASBOs are used for low-key offences, the more swamped the system to enforce them will become.
But New Labour spinners try to use these issues to grab votes and deflect people's attention away from the real robbers, like the capitalists who run Ford stealing the livelihoods of Coventry workers.
Socialists have to be careful - simply blaming capitalism won't help communities having to cope with the "Do what you like and stuff the others" approach initiated by Thatcher and less hope for a secure future for working-class youth.
The community should be really 'empowered' to deal with these issues by strong residents' and community groups that would seek to help young people as well as deal with problems.
Young people need jobs and facilities
KIDS GET into crime because there are no decent jobs, no facilities, and problems at school. It does feel like there's an increase in petty crime by younger teenagers. Some of the problems come from the collapsing education system. But the other problem is the lack of youth facilities.
Lynn Worthington, Socialist Party election candidate, Wythenshawe and Sale
There are well over 8,000 young people in Wythenshawe and nothing for many of them to do. A lot of the facilities are unaffordable or only open during the day.
Playing games in the street has been made a crime by the council. Meanwhile, the football pitches are so overpriced they're forcing out local teams.
Newall Green school's all-weather pitch is so expensive only Manchester City FC can afford to use it!
All this leads to nothing to do after school, but hang around the streets. Willow Park housing company in Benchill has found an 'answer' to the problem - ASBO the kids for swearing, and send leaflets to every tenant with the swear-words the kids were using!
When the local community first posed the issue of youth facilities during the housing transfer to Willow Park, the company promised a purpose-built youth facility. Years on and it still hasn't been built! The father of a local young person said to me: "Instead of building more housing, why can't the youth have a place to ride their midi-motors (bikes), why can't they give them a little bit of ground and let them use it? Then the youth won't be annoying people with their bikes."
It's about time the council started meeting the needs of all the community. We need proper youth and community facilities funded by the council and democratically run by the community.
The key jobs for young people in Wythenshawe used to be Direct Works and the airport, as well as the factories. The engineering works used to do apprenticeships, but it closed down seven years ago. Most of the other factories have gone as well. Direct Works used to offer apprenticeships, but these have gone now it's been privatised.
At the airport, to do any job - even cleaning - you need a driving license! This is impossible for most young people. We need real job creation, decent jobs with decent wages, and public money pumped into Wythenshawe - not just token efforts.
We've been campaigning in Benchill for more and better youth facilities. We've gone petitioning from door-to-door and collected hundreds of signatures. We lobbied the Area Committee (the local meeting of councillors for Wythenshawe).
When I pointed out the need in Benchill for youth facilities at affordable prices, one of the councillors agreed. But they still haven't done anything. Everyone who wants to see decent facilities and a decent future for our youth should contact us and join our campaign.
Contact number: 0161 718 2970
United campaign gets results
"IF YOU close this place where are working-class young people supposed to go for sport? This is all there is round here." This was an angry question thrown at the Liberal councillor and chair of Leisure Services during our first public meeting to fight the closure of St Mary's Leisure Centre in Southampton last year.
Nick Chaffey, youth worker
St Mary's is one of the most deprived inner city areas in the country. All the problems of housing, low income, poor health and crime are magnified and make life here very hard.
When the council's intentions to close the local leisure centre were known it caused a lot of anger in the area. The youth project I work for use it regularly for holiday activities and 'Midnight Football'. On Saturdays there is a free session for young people.
The centre is used by hundreds of people every week, for football, weight lifting, climbing, fitness and squash.
There is absolutely no doubt that these facilities offer young people an opportunity to use their time positively and keep them off the streets and out of trouble.
We only had a few weeks to stop the closure going ahead. After our public meeting, we got as many people involved as possible, collecting signatures on the petition, lobbying councillors, getting in the news and building for our demo.
The support was tremendous, young people, parents, all the different groups of users at the centre, got stuck in.
The demonstration was the highlight of the campaign and one of the biggest local demos for some time. It soon became clear that we had won the argument.
In the days running up to the council budget-setting meeting, the council had a sudden change of heart and announced they were going to keep the centre open.
As socialists we understand that it is the profit system that drives the policies of cuts, privatisation and closures which all the main parties are pursuing.
But this campaign was the music of the future and a lesson to all of us who were involved what a strong and united community can achieve.
different to the rest