Gun, knife and drug crime top of the agenda for new chief politician

The new politician in charge of tackling crime in Sheffield says combating guns and drugs is just as much a priority as reducing the number of knives on the city’s streets.

By Lucy Ashton, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 03 June, 2019, 10:51
Councillor Paul Wood, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety.

Nine fatal stabbings in South Yorkshire have dominated the headlines but Coun Paul Wood, the council’s new cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, said people were just as worried about other issues.

He said: “Knife crime is a major issue but I have the same concerns about drug and gun crime because they often all lead into each other.

“Drugs can be a catalyst to lead into other crime. I don’t have a sole push on knife crime but I have a focus on all three and we will deal with all of them.

“We did have a bad spell in Sheffield with stabbings over a very short period of time and that brought it to the top of the agenda. I’m not saying that it’s still not top but gun and drugs are equally at the top.

“When there was a recent shooting at Burngreave I went straight there and talked to residents. For them, that was a horrendous incident.”

Another part of the portfolio which has come under the spotlight in recent months is homelessness in the city, a complex and emotive problem.

“There is no easy answer,” said Coun Wood. “Sometimes the people we see are not homeless. It’s not a black and white issue at all.

“I have a colleague who saw a lady begging in town and when he got closer he realised she was his neighbour. When he asked what she was doing, she said she could make £80 to £100 a day.

“There are people who are genuinely homeless and we need to deal with that but there is an element of it being an organised activity in some cases.”

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It’s a wide ranging remit and for the communities part of the portfolio, with improving estates top of the agenda.

“I really want to see improvements in our neighbourhoods in general, especially with it being 100 years of council housing. It’s an ideal opportunity,” he said.

“I would like to see courses in community buildings to help people with social problems. I want to look at how we deal with repairs of council properties and whether we could create big improvements in these areas. I want to deal with fly tipping, maybe by putting skips out once a month.”

He also believes tight budgets shouldn’t be an excuse for doing nothing.

“People don’t accept austerity as an excuse. It resonated for a few years but people expect us to find ways to deliver without having to lay the blame at austerity’s door,” he said.

“There is a lot of money that’s available that is not council money, we can help communities find pots of money to deal with lots of issues. It’s about enabling community groups to find different funding streams for projects.

“We can’t make up for the massive loss of funding from the Government but we can alleviate a lot of the problems if we have creativity.”

Coun Wood, who represents Woodhouse, replaces Coun Jim Steinke on the cabinet.