Cllr David Fletcher has issued a stark warning to Bedford Borough Council that they are not doing enough to help areas like Midland Road, and to stop leaving the job of monitoring problems in the area to local people.
Cllr Fletcher says he has been moved to issue the warning after an ‘explosion’ of street drinking, anti-social behaviour and crime. He says the concerns of residents are too much to ignore, including a mother who ‘burst into tears’ as she told him that her fear of aggressive street drinkers is preventing her children leaving the house.
“The explosion of anti-social behaviour incidents presents a massive threat to families and businesses which are the social fabric of Midland Road.” said Cllr Fletcher.
He is now calling on the Council to clamp down on the ‘bottomless supply of cheap alcohol’ or risk ‘meltdown in Midland Road’. He told the Bedford Independent that while the police have a job to do in clearing up when these problems occur, austerity has meant their resources are more stretched than ever. Cllr Fletcher, a Conservative councillor, believes that it’s time for austerity to end and that Bedfordians would be happy to pay more tax to fund better policing, despite people voting against an increase in council tax to fund more police officers in 2015.
Until then, Cllr Fletcher says our council can do more to help with a ‘prevention better than cure’ approach. He added: “The availability of cheap, high strength lager purchasable in single tins at all times of day and night in this part of town is fuelling the fire. There are many other factors in the breakdown in law and order – drug abuse, fly tipping and insanitary housing conditions – but we must stop the bottomless supply of cheap alcohol or we will face meltdown in Midland Road.
“It is possible for the Council to review existing alcohol licences, but residents fed up with breaches of laws and conditions are told to initiate reviews at their own expense; this is absurd. I urge the Council to act immediately in cases where licences are clearly putting public safety at risk. Time is running out.”
A spokesperson for Bedford Borough Council said: “Bedford Borough Council is already taking action with spot checks to ensue that off-licences are abiding by their licence and these will continue. In Midland Road specifically the council is working with licensees to curb access to high strength alcohol for those who go on to cause anti-social behaviour. We will continue to work with partners including Bedfordshire Police to address the wider issues around anti-social behaviour around Midland Road, and last week’s ‘Week of Action’ saw partners, including the council, taking action to work with the community.
“Licensing laws are set nationally not locally, to get a licence businesses have to identify how they will prevent public nuisance, prevent crime and disorder, promote public safety and protect children from harm. If there are facts that show these objectives are being flouted by licensees then the licence can be restricted or removed by the Council. Individuals should contact the Police or the Council with the facts and they can be helped to put the facts in front of local Councillors.”