Councillor says Southend Council must empower itself to tackle the town’s problems

Anti-social behaviour problems in Southend will not be solved unless the council starts bringing forward greater enforcement powers for itself, a Conservative councillor has said.

Councillor Dan Nelson, of Southchurch ward, is calling on the council to introduce more public space protection orders (PSPO) that will allow safety teams to fine anyone caught violating specific rules.

One PSPO is already in place in the town centre and the seafront, aimed at stopping people from drinking heavily or from taking drugs, but Mr Nelson says another one should be used to stop vehicles from driving in public open spaces such as parks.

He said: “This comes back to when I was standing for election and I was speaking to many residents around Bournes Green who told me the park was plagued with motorcycles taking advantage of the park.

“People should be able to use our parks and green spaces safely. Having motor vehicles across them can put lives at risk and it is wrong.”

The PSPO will be presented to Full Council next week and could mean council officers can fine anyone £100 if they are caught driving a car, van, lorry or motor bike in Southend’s parks and public open spaces.

Mr Nelson continued: “The council needs to start empowering itself more on issue like this. They can’t just rely on the police for everything because they are stretched so the council needs to step up to the plate.

“Only the council has the power to bring everyone together and empower them to deal with the anti-social behaviour issues. At the moment the council seems eager to take the stance that it is not their job.

“Until the council steps up to the plate, problems will never be resolved.”

However, PSPOs have a history of being controversial as they run the risk of criminalising the wrong kinds of people.

Southend Council itself came under significant pressure over its decision to bring in the town centre PSPO because the wording of the order included giving officers the power to fine people for putting up tents or sleeping in places that may be inconvenient for others.

This raised serious concerns the authority would be criminalising the homeless. Similar concerns led to the rejection of another PSPO suggestion from Tory leader Tony Cox which was centred on banning overnight camping.

Cllr Martin Terry said: “The sort of activities councillor Nelson is referring to are already against the law. You can’t suggest that council officers chase off motorcyclists when that is a job for the police.

“We have seen when we have big problems like this elsewhere, we have to call the police because their officers are trained in community disorder.

“It seems like every time something happens councillor Nelson wants a PSPO put in for it and that is ridiculous.

“It is not easy to introduce a PSPO. You need clear evidence that it is justified and this is not a matter that should be dealt with using a PSPO – it should be dealt with by the police.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter