From: David Tomlinson
Many people visiting our town in recent months will no doubt have been appalled and disgusted at the number of rough sleepers, rubbish in shop doorways and anti-social behaviour associated with drunkenness.
Therefore, it came as no surprise see the problem highlighted in last week’s edition of the Herald.
Those problems were rather well summed up by a letter that appeared in a recent edition of the Herald from a tourist of many years to Eastbourne who wrote ‘There is, however, a disturbing underbelly to Eastbourne which naturally does not feature in the guide. We lost count of the number of rough sleepers sitting in shop doorways, swilling beer. The sight of drunken, foulmouthed individuals kind of takes the gloss off the vision of an idyllic holiday destination’.
If this is the vision that visitors to the town take away with them, we should all be very concerned. Not least hoteliers and retailers. There is little point in having an attractive new Retail Centre and a refurbished Congress Theatre if people are worried about coming into the town centre to take advantage of what they have to offer.
I am encouraged by the response to the problem from David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, Christina Ewbank, Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce, and most notably our MP Stephen Lloyd. I know that Stephen Lloyd has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to coordinate a joint letter to Katy Bourne, our Police and Crime Commissioner, setting out that the problem is not just a policing issue but one that demands a multi-agency approach.
She will be only too well aware of the impact that a major reduction in resources for Sussex Police and savage cuts to the police budget have left Eastbourne dangerously short of the necessary resources to deal with a growing problem. Moreover, community leaders are right to demand that Mrs Bourne is prepared to guarantee that Eastbourne receives the proper level of policing resources in order to tackle these problems.
It is, however, a matter for regret that when things go wrong, the public look round for someone to blame and these days the police are most likely to be the target which in my views is wrong. It has to be recognised that the police are the lead agency when it comes to responding to anti-social behaviour and drunkenness but it is also wrong to blame the police for the ills of society. The police are the response, not the solution. No single agency can be expected to deal with what is in any view a very complicated and long term issue born out of policies over which the police have no control. It calls for a multi-agency approach involving police, local authority social services and local community organisations.
Simply ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away is never going to be the answer. The problems go unchecked until a really serious incident takes place. It is reassuring to have witnessed some action by our community leaders, now let’s see that action turn problems into solutions for the benefit of everyone concerned.