Speaking up for Scarborough: View of council leader Tom Fox

Re your invitation to join in the debate about Scarborough and its general image:

The majority of people appreciate that Scarborough is a wonderful place to work, live and play and there is plenty to be proud of, but for all that we know not everything in the town is perfect.

We are not in a bubble and we are not immune to the social and economic issues which affect every other town and city in the UK.

Therefore, within this “wide-ranging debate” initiated by The Scarborough News about Scarborough’s image, it is really important there is balance, perspective and proportion and that we are able to draw comparisons with the national picture. We need to recognise there is some 
truly brilliant work going on to make our town a better place and whilst recognising issues, that is what I intend to emphasise.

Night time economy

“Pre-loading” of alcoholic drinks at home is an issue here just as much as it is in most other towns and cities. However, rather than shy away from the problems associated with our night time culture, the council, the police and other partners have been brave enough to recognise those deficiencies and confront them head on. We’ve produced a new strategy and action plan which sets out how the night time economy in the Scarborough Borough will be managed for the next three years. This is based on one of the biggest studies of its kind ever carried out in the area.

Data from North Yorkshire Police, the council, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, and health services, along with evidence from taxi and takeaway businesses, Pubwatch and Street Angels, has been pulled together to create a clear picture of the current state of the night time economy, including the negative trends and identifying what can, will and is being done to tackle them.

General crime and disorder related to the night time economy has been falling across the borough for the past four years.

However, we know there is no room for complacency and we are concerned that incidents linked to alcohol are going up, particularly in Scarborough town centre on a Saturday night going into Sunday morning, with higher concentrations of incidents now happening between midnight and 5am – much later in the night than previously seen. We are tackling that.

The strategy and action plan – which has been out to full public consultation – sets out a number of measures agencies including the council and police will take to prevent and tackle alcohol-related incidents.

Activities include a highly visible and proactive police approach, backed up by visible door staff and multi-agency patrols; the use of a “passive drugs dog”; the development of more rear smoking areas for pubs and bars on key routes along with effective management and control of those places; cracking down on drinks promotions to ensure they are being operated responsibly; and proactive use of enforcement tools including fixed penalty notices for public order 
offences and the issuing of dispersal notices.

We recognise there is scope to improve communication between organisations, businesses and volunteers that work within the night time economy so weekly Saturday night briefings in Scarborough, supported by the continued use of Pub Watch and Taxi Watch, have already started.

There will be further engagement with students and young people and an ongoing review of CCTV to ensure key areas such as taxi ranks are covered and the quality of images is good.

Longer term, the council and its partners are keen to work with licensees in Scarborough to get them to close their doors sooner so that people are encouraged into town earlier and away from the “pre-loading” culture.

I’m really proud of the work this council is doing in conjunction with other agencies including the police, fire service, voluntary, health services and county council, to tackle the issues we face, and this against the backdrop of limiting resources and legislation still strongly influenced by the drinks industry. It’s pioneering work and we are acknowledged as a beacon of best practice.

The recent launch of the Castle Ward North Bay Initiative is also very important.

This pro-active, co-located, multi-agency team, made up of statutory and voluntary sector agencies, has been brought together and is being deployed on the streets to:-

l Build better relationships with residents and tenants

l Improve the physical environment

l Provide a proactive approach to tackling anti-social behaviour and crime

l Identify and safeguard the vulnerable

The team pulls together the following initiatives:

Changing Lives – working with the most chaotic individuals in the borough to reduce the number of alcohol related incidents linked to these individuals

A&E brief interventions worker - an adult and young person worker providing interventions to those that are attending A&E with alcohol-related injuries or illnesses, signposting to support agencies where appropriate

Making Safe – a national award-winning scheme working with victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse which has seen a reduction in repeat incidents.

Crime and disorder

I don’t agree with the concept suggested by The Scarborough News of a “tide of anti-social behaviour”.

It is a fact that crime is continuing to fall across the Scarborough area, with 6.2 per cent fewer offences this year to date, compared with figures for the previous year.

There are fewer incidents of criminal damage and arson, fewer incidents of house burglary, fewer incidents of theft, including shoplifting, a drop in the number of assaults where people have been injured, domestic crime is down and “crimes against society” are falling.

That said, there has been two high profile serious crimes recently which without doubt has shocked everyone in Scarborough.

We are a close-knit community and tragedies of this type are keenly felt. There can be no playing down the impact these incidents have had on our community or those directly affected, but it should be remembered, these are separate, isolated incidents and they are not in keeping with the overall picture.

North Yorkshire remains one of the safest places to live in the country and, thankfully, incidents of a serious nature, including knife crime, are rare.

In the town centre from April to August offences of violence against the person recorded in this area are already down five per cent on last year, assaults with injury are down 12 per cent, robbery is down 60 per cent (from five offences to two) and offences related to the possession of weapons are down almost 43 per cent.

Economic development

Economic development is a priority for this council and we are playing a key leadership role in making things happen.

The town, and indeed the borough, is moving towards a period of unprecedented economic growth with more than £2 billion of major investment planned, such as the new potash mine, operations and maintenance support to the rapidly growing offshore wind industry, Middle Deepdale (the biggest housing development in the whole of Yorkshire), a new water park and sports village, business park developments and new sea defences.

These projects will generate thousands of new jobs across the Borough, including an estimated 3,000 in construction alone.

A key focus for us is addressing the employability agenda. The Yorkshire Coast Employability Charter is bringing our businesses, schools, colleges and university together to support young people into good local careers.

We are particularly focusing on driving apprenticeships and have a target of 250 new apprenticeships in construction, manufacturing and engineering over the next two years.

A total of 50 new apprenticeships have commenced in the past three months alone.

The council has established Scarborough Job Match to help local businesses find the staff they need and to support local unemployed people to find a job.

Over the last three years, the project has worked with more than 3,000 unemployed people, securing a job for more than 1,000 of those and supported 300 local businesses with their recruitment needs.

During the next 18 months, the project is aiming to help another 500 people to find employment through support in training, re-training, CV writing and preparation for interview.

During the past two years Yorkshire Coast Business Gateway has helped set up more than 120 new businesses (creating 130 new jobs) and supported around 80 existing businesses to expand and grow.

These two schemes, designed and led by the council, are recognised as best practice leading edge projects and we are looking to extend the services to other parts of North and West Yorkshire.

Civic Pride

The level of civic pride and community engagement in Scarborough is the envy of many other towns.

We have a growing number of “Friends Groups” working with Council staff to take care of our parks, gardens and cemeteries.

The Scout and Girl Guide troops and other youth groups are all flourishing to such an extent they are short of leaders and the sports clubs are again heavily subscribed, be it football, rugby, archery, sub aqua or sailing.

My conclusions

We see this debate as more than the image of the town. It is about its hopes, its ambitions and aspirations and how it will grow. It’s about changing attitudes. It is about those of us who live and work here now and also those who will set up home in the future, create work and take on work, have children who then go to school and then on to college or university, or an apprenticeship. We want well-paid jobs and investment in our town’s future, not just financial but in terms of people’s time and effort.

We have identified the issues surrounding the night time economy and are challenging them through pioneering action, leadership and strong partnerships that will co-ordinate an integrated approach. I’m confident the outcomes of this approach will demonstrate its success.

Economic regeneration is a priority.

I’m very proud of the work and leadership this council is taking. Infrastructure investment to support opening up our business parks to create further jobs is continuing. Investment in our town centre and surrounding area is happening. Investment into supporting the employability of people continues with some of this activity strongly focused on worklessness and the chaotic lives some families and individuals have.

We’re supporting skills and growth. We are investing in housing regeneration and we continue to use our land and assets to support this. We have a thriving tourism sector and Scarborough remains one of the most popular seaside resorts in the country.

Given all the above I think we can be proud of the leadership given by all the public sectors and the strong partnerships that have been developed with other organisations and our communities.