It’s just two weeks since Barnsley hosted the Tour de Yorkshire.
The town centre was buzzing on the day, with the bunting and street stalls creating a fantastic atmosphere. It was really exciting to watch world-class cyclists setting out on the Second Stage of this internationally acclaimed cycling event, and I am glad that so many lined the route to cheer them on.
Hosting events like this demonstrates how much Barnsley has to offer. When we put our mind to it, we know how to put on a great event and I am sure all those who visited our town centre on May 4 had a wonderful day.
However, the day-to-day reality for many residents is that visiting the town centre can be an unpleasant experience.
Many people have been in touch recently to share their experiences of anti-social behaviour in the town centre. It is deeply worrying that at a time when Barnsley should be celebrating our success, instead there are distressing scenes of individuals collapsed in the streets due to drug and alcohol misuse.
Concerns about anti-social behaviour have been raised with me by a significant number of constituents over a number of years, and I have worked hard to tackle this since I was first elected as MP for Barnsley Central.
Recently, I met with the Chief Constable for South Yorkshire Police, Barnsley’s District Commander, and senior officers from Barnsley Council to review the current situation. This followed on from a Town Centre Partners meeting, attended by senior officers from South Yorkshire Police, Barnsley Council, local security companies and local business owners.
At both these meetings I raised a number of key concerns about the current situation. These included the level of drug and alcohol abuse, dangerous driving, thefts, aggressive behaviour and littering. I also expressed my frustration that the level of anti-social behaviour remains unacceptably high.
One of the main challenges that we face is the increased numbers of people with alcohol and drug abuse issues engaging in anti-social behaviour in our town centre. Barnsley Recovery Steps are doing excellent work with those willing to engage with their service. But I share concerns that the numbers of users congregating in our town centre seems to have increased significantly in recent months.
Whilst I am aware that beating addiction is a difficult and lengthy process, it is simply unacceptable that visitors to the town centre are often witness to awful scenes and feel intimidated. Given the number of concerns raised with me, I have therefore contacted both South Yorkshire Police and Barnsley Council to ask that more is done to address this situation.
In the meantime it is vital that concerned residents continue to report anti-social behaviour.
You can report incidents to the police by calling 101 or going to www.reportingcrime.uk. You can also raise your concerns about policing with the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barnsley Council also have powers to take action on anti-social behaviour issues. They have started to exercise these powers by introducing a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) – I requested that this be done. Part of this PSPO allows certain Council employees to ban people from the town centre if their behaviour is anti-social but not criminal and also to take other enforcement action. That is why it is so important to report any anti-social behaviour that you witness by calling the Community Safety Team on 01226 773555.
We must do more to make our town centre a safe, welcoming place that we all want to visit, every day of the week. I am determined to make sure we achieve this.
This article was first published in The Barnsley Chronicle on Friday 18 May, 2018