HC Deb 23 February 2004 vol 418 cc19-20
17. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne & Sheppey)

If he will fund neighbourhood watch schemes; and if he will make a statement. [155760]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department(Fiona Mactaggart)

The Home Office provided a grant to the National Neighbourhood Watch Association of £150,000 in 2002–03 and of £200,000 in 2003–04. The National Neighbourhood Watch Association provides guidance and training to local neighbourhood watch associations. Local neighbourhood watch schemes are independent and largely self-financing. They are supported by police forces with which they work closely.

Mr. Wyatt

I commend to the Minister a scheme in San Jose, California by which each neighbourhood watch is funded. When graffiti appears, telephones and microwave systems are used, and graffiti can be removed within 24 hours. Those neighbourhood watches make neighbourhoods safer, and they are funded at a very low level. There are more than 700 neighbourhood watch schemes in my patch, and I would love to enable them further because they are so successful.

Fiona Mactaggart

We recognise that neighbourhood watch schemes are vital partners for the police in preventing and reporting crime and in supporting witnesses. The US scheme that my hon. Friend describes is interesting. Neighbourhood watch schemes and other community groups can work with the police to try to tackle such issues. In America, however, local community associations and local government are less vital than in the UK. Perhaps Americans depend on neighbourhood watch schemes where we have other resources, but I will examine the scheme that he describes.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD)

Will the Minister concentrate on neighbourhood watch schemes in this country? Does she agree that, alongside Crimestoppers, community policing and neighbourhood wardens, the neighbourhood watch is an important part of the jigsaw that provides safety in our communities? Although national funding for neighbourhood watch schemes should he recognised and appreciated, does she agree that much more could be done locally if there were core funding for back-up administration?

Fiona Mactaggart

We recognise the vital role of neighbourhood watch schemes, which was laid out for the first time in statute in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, demonstrating the value that we place on them. The hon. Gentleman rightly says that neighbourhood watch schemes play a practical local role, which is why we work to ensure that they are closely involved in crime and disorder reduction partnerships and that they can work closely with the police. We have not ruled out considering providing them with resources, which is often best done locally. We see them as partners in part of our police reform programme, in part of our crime and disorder reduction programme and in tackling antisocial behaviour and crime in neighbourhoods up and down the country.