Knife crime in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough on agenda as leaders examine how to level-up left behind neighbourhoods

The levelling-up communities scrutiny review held its first public meeting this week

By Kate Cronin
Friday, 14th January 2022, 8:24 am
The left-behind areas include the Kingswood neighbourhood in Corby

Civic leaders gathered this week to begin looking at how to help level-up three neglected areas in North Northamptonshire.

Led by Corby councillor Zoe McGhee, the levelling-up communities scrutiny review was opened after a Government All Party Parliamentary Group identified Kingswood and Hazel Leys in Corby, Avondale Grange in Kettering and Queensway in Wellingborough as 'left behind neighbourhoods.'

Cllr McGhee resolved to ensure that the new North Northants Council took the issue seriously by forming a group to try to find out what had gone wrong, and how to put it right.

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Although the group has had several private meetings, Tuesday's (January 11) was the first public meeting. It was held virtually and was attended by 40 leaders from across the authority including the Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold, unitary and town councillors, charitable groups, victims' organisations, police officers, a headteacher and knife-crime groups.

The topic was knife crime and anti-social behaviour. Attendees had different ideas on the causes of issues - but agreed that the only way to tackle them was to work together.

Cllr Valerie Anslow said that the Queensway estate once had a Sure Start Centre that was Government-funded but all that funding had been cut.

She said: "The funding was cut enough years ago now for it to have had a knock-on effect.

"That's an example of how a decision made ten years ago is having repercussions, which is why we need to be thinking about the effect of the decisions we make now."

Councillor Anne Lee said: "In Kettering, Sure Start is no longer funded and Homestart needs to be funded entirely by the charitable sector.

"In lockdown there were 40 domestic violence crimes here every day. But in Kettering we only have 14 police response officers working between three shifts. That's not helping."

Speakers agreed that short-term funding for projects was not enough and did not help community projects become sustainable.

Rav Jones, who represents Wellingborough-based anti-knife crime organsation Off The Streets, said: "What we're looking for is more police. The area looks redundant. It needs clearing and maintaining.

"There needs to be more funding for youth groups."

Kettering Town Councillor Clark Mitchell said: "On the Avondale Grange we're having issues with drugs, issues with anti-social behaviour. We have a group of teenagers who we're having issues with.

"These are symptoms of a much bigger issues. The people there feel angered and like a lower class of people.

"They're proud working people but they're living in poverty."

Wellingborough Councillor Paul Bell said that working together was key to solving the problems.

"We don't appear to work together," he said. "We don't sit down and put out heads together.

"People here feel abandoned. Tesco were asked if we could install a bleed kit and they said no. They didn't want to be associated with it. They didn't want it outside their shop.

"The police don't seem to be connecting with the community.

"We have to find the funding for youth groups. The Queensway needs to be cleaned-up."

Jack Richman from Corby-based East Midlands Knife Amnesty said that his organisation had collected 650 knives off the streets during the past four years.

He said that approaching companies to ask them to install bleed kits had been made difficult by the number of hoops that needed to be jumped through.

"We are driving our youths underground because there's no street lighting," he said. "There's nowhere safe for young people to go."

Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said that there were lots of projects in place in the county to help young people but accepted that it was important for organisations to join together.

He said: "We know that when a child is excluded from school it immediately doubles their chances of a pathway to crime."

Headteacher at Kingswood Primary School in Corby, Andrew Bark, said that school leaders now knew that by the time children got to year eight or nine, it was often too late to explain the dangers of issues like child sexual exploitation and knife crime, and that more had to be done with year six pupils.

"We have raised money for Kingswood Youth Club," he said. "But it shouldn't be a school's job to raise money for a youth club."

Cllr Matt Binley criticised the police for the way they dealt with the wake of Dylan Holliday's murder last year.

"The police flooded the area," he said. "But did they get out of their cars? No.

"Tensions were rife in the community. It they'd have been out talking to people, it might have changed things."