DOZENS of Johnson Fold residents gathered together at an emotionally charged public meeting in a bid to tackle “nightmare” anti-social behaviour and crime on the estate. Brad Marshall reports.

RESIDENTS decided enough was enough as they met at the Hope Centre in Johnson Fold in a bid to tackle the “horrendous” behaviour of young people, which they say has left them afraid to leave their homes.

In recent weeks residents say they have faced incidents including a drive-by shooting, car thefts and crashes, windows being smashed, people having eggs, stones and apples thrown at them; and acts of intimidation.

Among those at the meeting were representatives from Bolton at Home, Bolton Council’s 15-19 Service, and Johnson Fold Residents Association.

The were also joined by Sergeant Dave Butcher and Inspector Nicola Williams from Greater Manchester Police, and councillors Roger Hayes and Doug Bagnall.

During the evening emotions ran high as residents raised issues, including the perceived failure of the police to respond quickly enough or at all to incidents in the area.

Representatives from the police encouraged more residents to come forward with detailed information, but noted that they have to deal with incidents according to priority ­— based on the level of risk they pose to the public.

Insp Williams said: “We do want to work with you and we will help you. We are doing things on the estate and I would encourage you all, please, ring us when you are bothered about something.

“If you can we need specifics and we can collate that information and target our response to tackle the things you are most concerned about.”

Sgt Butcher added: “I would urge residents to contact us on the web portal, by calling 101 or by ringing Crimestoppers anonymously.

“You may not think we are acting on it but if you can give us details such as addresses, names of people involved, car registration numbers; and you can make it as specific as possible, we will gladly act on that.”

Residents said they felt there was a lack of provision of services and facilities, such as youth clubs, to keep young people off the streets.

In response a number of current provisions were highlighted by members of the panel, however issues over funding were discussed, with youth services in Bolton feeling the pinch of government cuts.

A statement from the council’s chief executive, read out in the meeting by Cllr Hayes, detailed that the council had received £30,000 from the police and crime commissioner’s Youth Aspiration Sustainability Fund in 2016, to allow the youth outreach team to cover more areas, and work in schools around the impact and consequences of anti-social behaviour.

The council also received a further £14,000 from this fund in 2017, however there are currently no further opportunities for additional funding for Greater Manchester for youth services, the statement said.

Cllr Heyes said: “£30,000 sounds like a lot of money but I can assure you to cover the whole of Bolton it is peanuts.

“Ever since I have been on the council, virtually every year youth services has had money taken away from its budget. And in the last five years there has been a 20 per cent cut on top of the pervious cuts.”

He added: “People are doing the best job they can in the circumstances but it isn’t enough.”

Residents also questioned actions that can be taken against repeat offenders reported for anti-social behaviour, and about the eviction of nuisance tenants.

Claire Burrows from Bolton at Home told the meeting that there was a clear course action for handling such individuals but noted that eviction was only used as a last resort.

Closing the meeting Cllr Hayes said: “Johnson Fold is a very good community. The vast majority of people on Johnson Fold are superb people, and there are a lot of activities going on up here, and a marvellous community spirit.

“However, there are problems here at the moment, problems than concern people very much.

“Funding has been an issue. The council has lost a mass of funding and so has the police. And the trouble with the council’s funding is that with a lot of it we are told what we have to spend it on such as education and elderly care.

“That means services that we are not bound by law to provide, like the youth service, get cut out of proportion ­— and there is no doubt that that is one of the issues that we have got here.

“I know the police are in this area and care deeply about what they are doing; they are very good at what they do. And they are very frustrated, I suspect, at what they can’t do.

Cllr Hayes also raised issues around private letting allowing evicted nuisance residents to return to Johnson Fold and questioned parents responsibility for preventing young people from committing anti-social behaviour.

He added: “Services have been cut due to funding, but that is not an excuse for criminality.

“There is no excuse for people doing the sort of things they have been doing to make residents’ lives absolute hell. It is very worrying if you live next door to it, if you are the one having stones thrown at you, or if its your car being damaged ­— its a massive problem.

“We seem to be bending over backwards for the people who are causing the problems and not doing enough for the people affected.

“The police do need to do more, but they haven’t got the resources. Bolton at Home Need to do more, but they’re struggling too on occasion. And the council probably need to do more in youth provision, but we haven’t got the money.

“I think there is hope tonight because what has come across very clear and very loud is there is anger in this room, anger on this estate. I know some people were scared to come tonight, but I think it’s a tribute to you all that you are here.”