Labour’s candidate for Rochford & Southend East Ashley Dalton has pledged to get local voices heard after residents and businesses voiced concerns around drug-use and anti-social behaviour in central Southend’s conservation area.
Ashley Dalton attended a Neighbourhood Watch meeting on 26 October, where attendees reported a worrying increase in anti-social and criminal behaviour in and around Cambridge Square Gardens; the old Alexandra Bowling Green.
Issues raised included loud, drunken behaviour in the park, particularly at night, as well as drug selling and use and abandoned drug paraphernalia including sharps. Business owners also reported perpetrators had defecated in their doorways.
Attendees said the historic gardens – a draw for tourists and shoppers – was not adequately well-lit, attracting anti-social behaviour after dark.
Neighbourhood Watch members said they did not believe the anti-social behaviour emanated solely from homeless people in the area and were supportive of the Saturday night soup kitchen in Clarence Road carpark. However, they felt the Sunday afternoon soup kitchen in the same location to be disruptive to shoppers and suggested it be moved to Seaways carpark instead.
They called for an extension of the no-drinking zone from the high street to cover a wider area within central Southend, better lighting in the area, stronger police presence and help for people dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Ashley Dalton said: “There is a serious problem with anti-social behaviour that threatens the safety and profitability of the conservation area.
“People at the meeting welcomed the increased police presence on the high street, but were concerned at the level to which the anti-social behaviour was being pushed from the high street into the conservation area.
“Policing is a vital part of the response but we cannot simply keep moving the problem around. To truly tackle it, we must address the underlying cause, and that cause is Tory austerity.
“Unsustainable central government cuts are affecting services such as drug and alcohol dependency support, and the shambles of universal credit has pulled the rug out from under the feet of our community’s most vulnerable people.
“Their desperation is manifesting in disruptive and dangerous behaviour. That in turn is threatening vital leisure footfall in the economic centre of our town.
“When our most vulnerable people suffer, the whole community’s safety and prosperity is at risk.”
A Labour government has clear commitments on dealing with issues such as these.
Ashley Dalton said: “Labour has committed to recruiting 10,000 more police officers to work on community beats. We know that fair employment and a compassionate welfare system benefits an entire community. We will continue to fight for these things for the good of our towns.
“I will raise the issues that I heard at the Neighbourhood Watch meeting with members of the shadow cabinet, and I urge residents and businesses to get in touch with me with any other concerns.
“I will continue seeking opportunities to get local voices heard, and I will continue to put pressure on the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to address cuts in police services.”
Labour councillors for the central Southend ward of Milton, Cllr Cheryl Nevin and Cllr Julian Ware-Lane, are also running a People’s Summit at which residents and business owners can raise issues with their elected Labour representatives. This will take place at the Civic Centre at 7pm on 7 November.