I have always said that to become Dorset PCC, you have to start to unravel the
whole issue of Boscombe.
The area is one of the most deprived in the South West.
It has also suffered two violent deaths in two years, both in Roumelia Lane.
One of my friends is Jane Ormerod, whose son Nicholas was taken by a knife in
Roumelia Lane nearly 2 years ago. Together we fight for awareness of knife crime and
knife issues through TurnYourBack, Dorset’s first anti-knife charity.
After three months researching the area, it is clear the whole issue is a tangled web,
with several drivers leading to the downward spiral that is Boscombe.
And it is time to turn it around…..
One of the main drivers is that the area suffers from a repeating cycle – Offenders come
out of prison, get placed into Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) in Boscombe,
with no support or money (they often wait weeks for benefits, especially as Dorchester
Prison has no housing/discharge officer, a vacant position due to cuts) and they then
commit crime to fund their existence and/or drug habit before returning to prison.
And along the way, the community suffers, and continues to spiral.
The Dorset Probation Trust, HMP and the private landlords need to work together to
alter this flow.
Another driver (as highlighted recently in the Bournemouth Echo) is the huge amount of
unlicensed drug “rehabs ” running out of HMO’s.
The quoted estimate in the paper is 60. Dave Wells, one of the private landlords for the area,
that I met last week estimates 100 at least.
These unlicensed drug rehabs are the key to turning Boscombe round.
Enforced licensing of rehabs is the only way forward to reduce this plethora of chaos.
The other driver causing issues for Boscombe is the HMO’s.
Reduce them, and reduce the placement of prison releases into the area,
and the cycle can be changed.
There is no shortage of the will to change.. – the multi agency meeting last week dealing
with exactly those issues, was a great step forward. The local MP Tobias Ellwood
is very involved. As is Jane Kelly, the local councillor. Helene Bowman Brown,
my friend, Chair of Friends of Roumelia Lane is also a great campaigner for change.
And lets face it, it is a rebuilding that we all want.
Bournemouth Council have been instrumental in leading this trend, by purchasing
HMO’s and converting them to family flats.
For a PCC, the Boscombe issue is a perfect example of how the role can help bring people
together, changing the demographic of the area over time. The transience of the area
is one issue that leads to an unstable community, and by virtue of that, a breakdown
in common standards.
In my view, several agencies need to be engaged together to break the cycle. The
Probation Service and HMP are two key agencies in this melting pot.
If person’s leaving prison are dispersed wider instead of to the available HMO’s
in Boscombe, things could change.
And that leads us to the HMO’s. Licensing by the Council could remove some HMO’s
but not the issue – the transience. The HMO’s need to be upgraded and converted to
family flats/houses, bringing stability back to the area.
And then there is the role of the police. I have spent a lot of time in Boscombe in the last
3 months, and a police station that is never open is not helping the depressing cycle of
downward spiral, people feel let down.
As PCC, I pledge to work with all of the relevant agencies, politicans, private landlords
and the community to turn Boscombe back into what it was.
It can be done, look at Brixton in London.
But this can’t be done without funding. I was a small cog in the very large wheel that turned
St Leonards in Hastings, Sussex, from a deprived area into a good area again.
And one of the main reasons that happened was due to Central Government Funding,
funding that we could win for Boscombe. It will be my priority to work with all
the agencies to try and obtain central funding if I am elected.
I know a lot of people in Boscombe, and all they want is to be able to walk outside without
a fear of crime. If elected, I aim to try and make that happen.
Boscombe is an issue for Dorset people. It is therefore an issue for me.
Thanks for reading this.