Last Friday evening I hit the streets of Yeovil with the Yeovil Street Pastors to find out more about their work and some of the issues facing the town centre. The Pastors are a nationwide group of volunteers from local Churches who help their communities with some of the challenges particularly around nightlife. I was particularly keen to go out with them because I have been aware of concerns about anti-social behaviour in the town centre; in fact I’ve been part of the campaign to make sure we keep a full service Police station.
The Street Pastors are extremely impressive. I am absolutely for maintaining Police presence but what the Pastors offer is a bit different. An example of their thoughtfulness often used is giving out flip flops in cases where drinks have made high heels too much of a challenge. I was struck by how assiduous the Pastors are in clearing away broken glass in case someone stands on it. Clearly binge drinking is not a sensible thing but these volunteers are non-judgemental; just genuinely out to help.
We came across a group of teenagers who were very keen to talk to me – who says they are not engaged by politics? I also spoke to a few of the people sleeping rough on the streets. People in that position must not be made statistics – every story is different and the breakdown of normal life is often hard to pinpoint. I’m very supportive of the new Government initiative to create a new fund to be spent on ways of tackling homelessness and hope it will help people in this situation find their feet. Of course problems around addiction and mental health must be prioritised too for a long lasting difference.
My overall impression was that, thanks in no small part to good policing, the efforts of the Street Pastors and the good nature of its inhabitants, Yeovil is a fairly safe place at night. We absolutely need to keep a Police presence there and work hard on some drug issues though.
I was also there to have a firsthand look at the night time economy. A vibrant High Street will tend to be a safe one – it is where areas are neglected that problems tend to start. In last week’s Budget there was excellent news on reducing Business Rates for smaller businesses, often taking them out of paying rates at all. It’s an area I’ve been campaigning hard on in Westminster since being elected and I’m really delighted with this change which should help town centres.
Taking the self-employed out of paying National Insurance is a big step forward too. I’ve been vocal about backing British business and being confident in making our way outside of the European Union. These two measures are exactly the kinds of things that will help the kinds of business that are the backbone of our economy. My thanks go to the Yeovil Street Pastors for welcoming me on their evening shift.
I’m very much looking forward to my intensive open surgery Spring tour in a couple of weeks but in the meantime if you would like help with an issue or to book an appointment at one of my weekly surgeries do call 07341818776 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.