I like to be able to sing from the rooftops all of the good things that are going on in Keighley and Ilkley, but it would be completely wrong to dodge the criminal activities and antisocial behaviour that continue to haunt my constituency. It is only right that we are able to raise concerns, so that we can lobby hard and make sure that these issues are dealt with.
I am sad to say that Keighley experiences its fair share of antisocial behaviour. However, this is not just antisocial behaviour—it goes on further into organised crime and the like. The types of experiences that we are having include recreational drug use, particularly with young people in parks and public places. I am sad to say that in Keighley, Ilkley and Silsden, young people are taking drugs and leaving used needles and empty canisters behind. These people are treating my constituency—my town of Keighley—like a playground, with no respect whatever for the wider community.
I could go on. Some of the other issues that we are experiencing include: fireworks being let off late at night and at all hours; people using our roads like a racetrack or a game, with modified cars and loud exhausts, and really annoying many of my constituents; and worst of all, such behaviour can turn violent and directly involve innocent members of the public who just want to go about their lives. Too often I receive heart-breaking pieces of correspondence from constituents, telling gut-wrenching stories about going about their own business only to be assaulted and mugged in Keighley by mobs of thugs wearing balaclavas. That happened only this month, and in the last two weeks several constituents have raised these concerns.
What is worrying is that although we have many fantastic independent local businesses right in the centre of Keighley, wanting to encourage people into the town to drive economic prosperity, people are being put off from coming in because of these issues. One constituent, Laura Kelly, who owns a fantastic business in the centre of Keighley, is doing a great job standing up for local businesses and making the case that more should be done about antisocial behaviour.
I am aware that there are many reasons—often complex—why young people could be drawn into committing crimes such as the ones mentioned earlier. They might have had a troubled upbringing, with little family care or support, or have had negative influences around them from an early age. Solving such issues is not easy, but the key thing that we must do is offer young people different pathways to a life out of crime, so that they are not dragged into those circumstances. We must provide a way out for them and their friends, so that they do not get drawn into drug dealing, which is a huge challenge.
Youth services and youth workers play a vital role in helping those in disadvantaged positions. They help provide great services to many of the young people in my constituency. Those services allow people to access a network of new environments, to gain new hobbies, to get involved with sports and to learn more skills, all of which can help them get out of crime.
At this point, I must mention Keighley Albion and the Keighley Cougars, local sports groups—rugby groups—that have tried to get young people out of their day-to-day habits of driving using Keighley as a racetrack, and get them more involved in other activities. I was delighted to hear The Chancellor of the Exchequer announce an extra £560 million for youth services in last year’s spending review. This money must go directly to those areas and to provision such as youth services, to get it to those who need it most.
As I said, Keighley and Ilkley unfortunately has an undeniable problem with youth crime. It is my sincere hope that if we continue to open up, to talk about such issues, we can show young people a different option out of crime, to move our community forward.