Westminster Hall debate, Anti-social behaviour in town centres, 26 April 2023

The Government’s Anti-social Behaviour Action Plan and consultation sets out its approach to stamping out anti-social behaviour. Councils look forward to seeing more details of how the action plan will work in practice, as well as how the plan will  be funded. The LGA will work closely with the Government given the plan’s commitments to fund more uniformed local authority wardens and to explore funding models with PCCs and councils.


Key messages

  • Left untackled anti-social behaviour (ASB) can have a devastating impact on communities, families and individuals. Many ASB offences are serious issues for local residents, families and businesses, and councils are keen to protect them from offenders who can make the lives of those they target a misery.
  • Councils are committed to tackling anti-social behaviour in town centres, but it is essential that government adequately resources policing and community safety officers to enforce restrictions put in place.
  • The Government’s Anti-social Behaviour Action Plan and consultation sets out its approach to stamping out anti-social behaviour. Councils look forward to seeing more details of how the action plan will work in practice, as well as how the plan will  be funded. The LGA will work closely with the Government given the plan’s commitments to fund more uniformed local authority wardens and to explore funding models with PCCs and councils.
  • Councils take a balanced and proportionate approach to using the tools at their disposal to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. Where ASB tools and powers are used, this often requires a policing or community safety officer presence to enforce the restrictions. Whilst the Government has provided some much-needed support to tackle anti-social behaviour through the Safer Streets Fund, significant challenges remain.
  • Government should urgently publish the evaluations of the additional Safer Streets Funding rounds, to share lessons learned and help local areas identify which interventions have worked effectively. Councils also want to ensure that the future funding round for the Safer Streets Fund builds on lessons learned from previous rounds and allows enough time to implement interventions and demonstrate their value.
  • The Government’s community safety partnership review is currently considering information sharing and accountability between CSPs and police and crime commissioners, alongside consulting on the use of various ASB powers by a range of partners. The LGA is keen to see a more comprehensive review of CSPs that considers their role in an increasingly complex partnership landscape, including the part they can play in tackling ASB.

Supporting councils’ role in tackling ASB

Many anti-social behaviour offences are serious issues for residents, families and businesses. Councils are committed to working with their partners and their communities to prevent anti-social behaviour and protect residents from offenders who can make the lives of the people they target a misery. 

Anti-social behaviour covers a range of behaviours. Councils will take a balanced and proportionate approach, using the tools at their disposal to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour and working with partners to respond to local issues and support victims. Where ASB tools and powers are used, this often requires a policing or community safety officer presence to enforce the restrictions.

The Government has provided some much-needed support to tackle anti-social behaviour through the Safer Streets Fund, and the LGA is keen that the Government should publish the evaluation of these approaches to tackle ASB and safety issues in the public realm, including town centres, as soon as possible.

However, significant challenges remain. There has been little Government funding available for community safety partnerships (CSPs), and local authorities have scarce resources to invest in the range of community safety issues locally, particularly in light of current inflationary pressures. Tackling ASB and other issues requires long-term and sustainable funding, at a time that both local government and the police have stretched resources. As a first step, increasing data analytical support to CSPs would help target ASB interventions and allocate resources effectively.

The LGA is keen to see a comprehensive review of community safety partnerships, as anticipated by part two of the review of Police and Crime Commissioners. However, the current consultation on CSPs is focusing narrowly on information sharing/accountability between CSPs and PCCs, as well as seeking factual information about how CSPs and PCCs work together on ASB. It is important that a more strategic review of CSPs is undertaken, considering their work with PCCs and other partners across the full range of community safety issues, how they are funded, and what is expected of them, as soon as possible.

Public perceptions of anti-social behaviour

As part of the LGA’s work to support Anti-Social Behaviour Awareness, we work with Resolve, who published research on the public’s experience and perceptions of ASB.

The (2021) research found that 45 per cent of people say ASB is a problem where they live. 35 per cent say that the situation has worsened over the previous three years.

Significantly, 56 per cent of those who had either been a victim of, or a witness to ASB, did not report it to anyone. This suggests that the incidence and the negative effects of ASB are potentially higher than official statistics based on recorded cases might recognise. (The police recorded 1.2 million incidents of anti-social behaviour (ASB) in the year ending June 2022).  

Of those that had been victims of ASB, 43 per cent said it had affected their mental health; 47 per cent said they have considered moving home; and 54 per cent said they feel unsafe in their local area.

Resolve’s research has found that most people (48 per cent) say they are most likely to encounter ASB in their town centre. 29 per cent say they are most likely to encounter anti-social behaviour around their local shops and 36 per cent at the local park or playing area. 31 per cent of the youngest people surveyed (aged 18-24) said they are most likely to encounter such behaviour on public transport.

The most common form of ASB, encountered by those who have experienced it at least once a year, is groups of young people hanging about on the streets (59 per cent), followed by concerns about vandalism, criminal damage and graffiti.

Other types of ASB cited by respondents as being of concern to them were people using/dealing drugs, nuisance neighbours, groups hanging about on the streets, begging, vagrancy, problems with homeless people, people being intimidated, threatened, verbally abused or harassed, and fly-tipping.

Government’s anti-social behaviour plan

The Government published its Anti-social Behaviour Action Plan and consultation last month which sets out its approach to stamping out anti-social behaviour and restoring the right of people to feel safe in, and proud of, their local area.  The plan has a three pronged approach aiming to:

  • Treat ASB with the urgency it deserves, through implementing hotspot policing areas and immediate justice measures.
  • Change laws and systems to take a zero-tolerance approach to ASB, cracking down on illegal drugs and harmful begging.
  • Give police and other agencies the tools they need to discourage ASB, increase fines and invest in positive activities.

A number of the proposals in the plan are relevant to councils’ existing work to promote community safety, revitalise local high streets and improve private rental sector housing. Councils look forward to seeing more details of how the action plan will work in practice, for example, the ban on nitrous oxide and trading standards’ potential role in this, as well as how the plan will be funded. The LGA will work closely with the Government given the plan’s commitments to fund more uniformed local authority wardens and to explore funding models with PCCs and councils.