The news of three stabbings in Boscombe last week was both shocking and saddening. As Boscombe's local MP I understand the concerns and worries of local residents after incidents like these. On Friday, I therefore met with the Chief Constable of Dorset Police to discuss not just recent events and our current strategy, but also what can be done to address the long term issues suffered by Boscombe. You can listen to my interview with Wave FM 105.2 on Boscombe crime here: https://audioboo.fm/boos/2471756-tobias-ellwood-mp
I know that Dorset Police are working hard to apprehend those responsible, and have sent out a clear message that violent crime will not be tolerated in our community. They are ensuring that our streets are safe and welcoming, and I would like to make it clear that there is no increased risk to the general public as the majority of these recent incidents were private, domestic disputes rather than wider criminal activity.
Concerns have been expressed by a number of residents that the number of drug rehabilitation centres in Boscombe, rather than having an overall positive impact, have instead attracted criminal behaviour to the area. That is why I’ve met with local councillors to determine potential courses of action, and to assess how the distribution and organisation of these centres can be altered. This could be essential in tackling the core of the problem. However it is important to recognise that at present, there are only two regulated residential rehabilitation centres in Boscombe (with a further two in Bournemouth itself).
Whilst Boscombe has had its fair share of local problems, the ward’s regeneration has made huge progress. Rehabilitation centres have done incredible work for the community. Opportunities and positive changes have been created by investment over the last decade, in the form of a new spa and gardens, a thriving vintage market, an arts hub, regeneration of The Crescent and improvements to Roumelia Lane. These have enabled locals to take pride in their area and to see the benefits of volunteering for practical projects to play their part in the development.
There is of course much more to be done. Bournemouth Council’s ‘Backing Boscombe’ initiative, beginning this week, aims to make the area a more attractive and safer place for residents, workers and visitors. It will make changes on the approach roads to slow traffic speed by reducing road space and increasing width of pavements. It will also manage on-street parking and relocate bus stops to reduce unnecessary congestion, and open up all entry points to the precinct to make it a more welcoming area. It is only right that huge resources are channelled into improving the living and working environment in Boscombe.
This is a good start, but I would like to see further development in Boscombe. I strongly support the initiative, but the provision of leisure activities and jobs is not sufficient to eradicate social problems. We can develop a solid and coherent strategy by working with the police and local rehabilitation centres. I have therefore written to the Leader of Bournemouth Borough Council, Councillor John Beesley, to ask what legislation both he and the Council would like to see amended to deal with independent drug rehabilitation centres on a local basis. I will then take his recommendations to both Home Secretary Theresa May, and Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, for consideration. I am confident the Council’s recommendations will be warmly received and I will be happy to work with him to present these views at the highest levels of Government in order to work for significant improvements in Boscombe for the future.
The one positive factor is that these tragic events have catalysed a debate, an engagement in important issues and a recognition of what needs to be done, and I will be working hard locally to ensure that this happens.