At a meeting of Swindon Borough Council’s scrutiny committee last week leader of the Labour group Jim Grant said an outbreak of "gang warfare" in Penhill and Pinehurst had left some people afraid to go out.

Here, Coun Grant writes a personal article for the Adver on how he thinks the areas can be improved...

WHEN I first came to Swindon people were always advising me not to go to anywhere in the town beginning with a P – Pinehurst, Penhill, Park North, Park South, The Prinnells.

Why? Because these were the places with the highest crime rates, the highest drugs use, the lowest education attainment and the worse health problems.

Nearly 30 years later people are still say that, but now the situation is even worse. The recent outbreak of “gang warfare” in Pinehurst and Penhill in which life-threatening stabbing, large-scale public disorder and ongoing damage to property have taken place is a tragedy for the town.

But what’s more of a tragedy is that nobody seems to care.

The underfunded and underresourced police do their best to contain the immediate problems. The under-funded and under-resourced council and other agencies do their best to come up with long-term strategies to combat the problem but we don’t seem to be getting anywhere if recent events are anything to go by.

Ninety-nine per cent of the people of Pinehurst and Penhill are law-abiding citizens who shouldn’t have to go about their daily lives in fear of what’s happening on their streets. We need to come down hard on the one per cent or less of people who are perpetrators of these criminal activities.

We also need to put in long-term strategies which create jobs, decent housing and health outcomes so that people aren’t trapped in a generational cycle of poverty, deprivation and crime which continually impacts on the lives of others.

This is not only because it helps the people of these communities but it also helps all our communities as if we can solve these problems long term then it will mean a reduction of taxpayers’ money in trying to combat these problems – money which can then be spent on other services.

But what’s missing from all this good is any real input from people who actually live in these communities. These problems have been successfully combated elsewhere – Cornwall, Wigan, several London boroughs. But the key to that success is that the people most affected by this behaviour – the residents – have been asked to participate in both finding and implementing the solutions.

Too often in the past people’s views on the ground have been ignored. And yet, elsewhere, it is the ideas from local residents which have led to progress. Local people are key to getting on top of these problems and they should be listened to.

There is a 90-year-old woman who lives in the Valley in Penhill. Every day she litter picks the area around her house in an effort to keep the street neat and tidy. She has pride in where she lives and she says that many of her fellow residents do too.

They are willing to get involved but she says they need the police and the council to support them. If we are to solve these problems it’s time we started listening to what local people have to say.