‘We’re not thugs or yobs’ East End youths tell police and Tower Hamlets’ mayor

PUBLISHED: 18:04 10 June 2016 | UPDATED: 18:04 10 June 2016

Audience put the mayor on the spot over youth service cuts

Audience put the mayor on the spot over youth service cuts

Poplar Harca

Youths complaining that they are being treated as “thugs and yobs” are setting up an advisory group in London’s East End with local police chiefs and the Town Hall to change their bad stereotype image.

Mayor John Biggs and panel face questions at the Spotlight centre in PoplarMayor John Biggs and panel face questions at the Spotlight centre in Poplar

The independent body is being put together following a public Question Time where youths fired questions at Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs, senior police officers and politicians.

The advisory group would act as a three-way “go between” with youngsters, the Met Police and the Town Hall to prevent anti-social behaviour rather than just dealing with it after it happens.

The “unrest” was felt among teenagers at the forum which was held at Poplar’s Spotlight ‘youth space’ centre.

“Some young people thought the police held a stereotype view that they were all thugs and yobs,” Spotlight’s events co-coordinator Abi Kenyon told the East London Advertiser. “They want to challenge that perception and prove it’s not true, to create a new image of the youth.”

Tower Hamlets Mayor John BiggsTower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs

The bad image emerged a decade ago when the East End was hit by a wave of street gang fights. The London riots in 2011 didn’t help, with troublespots breaking out in Roman Road, Bethnal Green Road and Hackney’s Mare Street.

But now society has moved on and today’s teenagers say they want to show they are not the delinquents depicted by the old image.

So the advisory panel will hold regular meetings with the Met Police and the Mayor to throw open ideas on how to prevent anti-social behaviour and advising what local services young people want in the East End.

The Question Time panel with the mayor, which was quizzed by the young audience, included Tower Hamlets Police Supt Peter Turner, the London Assembly’s Umesh Desai who represents East London at City Hall, and Tower Hamlets deputy youth mayor Monsur Ali.

One member of the audience, from Limehouse boxing academy, suggested the council funds activities such as youth boxing as a “good way to occupy youngsters’ energy”.

But there were concerns about council cuts to the youth service, with some centres being closed.

This follows investigations revealed at Tower Hamlets council’s AGM by deputy mayor Rachael Saunders last month into allegations of fraud and malpractice in the youth service during the previous Town Hall administration, which was booted of office by the High Court in May last year. The investigations are looking into 73 allegations during that period which are now being looked into by the council.

The youth service is being reorganised with a temporary arrangement, meanwhile, until a permanent structure is in place, with a Town Hall pledge that there would be no youth service cuts.

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