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LGA HIT BACKS AT MINISTERS IN ROW OVER CHILD CURFEWS

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The Local Government Association has accused home secretary Jack Straw of 'premature and ill-informed criticism' of...
The Local Government Association has accused home secretary Jack Straw of 'premature and ill-informed criticism' of councils, after he said town halls were dragging their feet over using new measures to combat anti-social behaviour.

The Guardian (p10) reports that the official criticism came as part of Tony Blair's weekend call to 'find a new moral purpose' for the younger generation.

The home secretary said yesterday that local authorities had to 'cut through administrative difficulties' and start using the new measures.

Ministers are unhappy that not a single local child curfew has been declared despite being available since last September in some areas.

Jeremy Beecham, chairman of the LGA, criticised the attack by Tony Blair and Jack Straw. 'These orders are not designed to cure all social ills from teenage pregnancy to truancy. The Crime and Disorder Act provides a variety of other options which local agencies are already using to tackle crime such as parenting orders and curfews.

'The spirit of the Act enables the use of anti-social behaviour orders to be decided locally by councils, the police and other agencies as part of the crime and disorder partnerships - not centrally,' he said.

Sir Jeremy added that is was not the business of local government to get into the field of sex and morality.

But Mr Straw said the threat of the orders had already had an impact on behaviour and said they had been introduced at the request of local government.

The clash comes as Mike Rowan, litigation team leader at North Somerset Council - which is pioneering the use of anti-social behaviour orders, has warned other councils of the pitfalls of using them to tackle the problem of teenage tearaways.

He said: 'Councils who attempt to use ASBOs to target anti-social behaviour by children and young people might wish they hadn't.'

He warned in Housing magazine that the new orders might fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights. 'What UK local authorities should be asking themselves now is whether it is legally possible to consider using these powers at all against juveniles,' he said.

'I have no doubt that a challenge would be brought under the European Convention if an authority sought to follow guidance given by the government.'

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