Boozing teens put stop to fun bus

Shaun MacNeill
Shaun MacNeill

A popular youth activities bus had to be withdrawn from its Saturday night slot in Fleetwood after problems with a small minority of under-age drinkers.

The fun bus has been a huge success with youngsters on the West View estate’s People’s Park and had two final weeks of its three-month run left to go.

But it had to be pulled early and wasn’t in Fleetwood at the weekend after youths attempted to let its tyres down. Staff say they left for their safety, and the safety of the other youngsters present.

A small group of seven or eight youngsters – some aged just 13 – were swigging alcohol, shouting abuse and generally causing trouble, forcing the bus to leave early.

Although the bus is set to return over Easter, it will now only operate during the daytime for those two sessions.

Fleetwood Police have confirmed they have spoken to the families of some of these children after they were identified.

And this week a community leader on West View estate called on parents to do more to try to curb such behaviour.

Shaun MacNeill, Vice chairman of West View Community Association, said: “We get up to 40 children there and have no problems, but a very small minority have ruined it for the rest.

“This is a group of about just seven or eight youngsters, aged between about 13 and 17, who have been openly drinking. I feel it should be the responsibility of parents, not the police or youth workers, to stop these children behaving like this.

“If your child is under-age and has obviously been drinking when they come home, you would think parents would notice and would want to do something about it.

“There was a time when mums and dads would control their kids more if they caused problems, but it doesn’t seems to be the case as much these days.”

He also called on residents to stand up and be counted if they noticed young children drinking, and let the youngsters’ parents know.

The activities bus is run by the Lancashire Boys and Girls Clubs and its three-month tenure was paid for after a successful £5,000 cash bid by the West View Community Association and Regenda.

There had been a campaign to bring it back after funding ran out for it at the end of 2012.

It met up at Martindale Avenue every Saturday from 6 to 8pm and included DVDs, console games and football sessions.

Kevin Sweeney, project manager for the bus on behalf of the Lancashire Boys and Girls Clubs, said: “On the Saturday before last, we had to pack up early because these kids who were drinking turned up, a small minority.

“They started to get abusive and let down the tyres of the bus. We had four staff there and we felt it was best to leave early, before things turned ugly. Safety of staff and the other children is a priority.

“This seemed to happen because on this particular night, the PCSO who normally came couldn’t turn up. The police could not guarantee they would be there the following Saturday either, so without the guarantee of a safe environment, we could not attend.

“This incident was nothing to do with the bus, we have had no problems. It is to do with a small group of youngsters who seem to be causing problems across Fleetwood. The police can not expect us to deal with those kind of problems.”

Sgt Dan Whitaker, of Fleetwood Police, said: “Anti-social behaviour from a small minority has meant that youth workers from the bus couldn’t continue their work in a positive environment.

“Some of them have been identified and their parents have been made aware of the situation.

“A longer-term approach will be to make these youngsters understand how the consequences of such behaviour impacts not just on themselves, but on the wider community, such as the withdrawal of the bus on Saturday nights.”

On a more positive note, Mr MacNeill added that a fresh bid for cash for the fun bus would include extra provision for a PCSO to help oversee activities every week.

The fun bus will be back for two special sessions at the Martindale Avenue park over Easter, this Thursday and also Thursday April 17, from Noon to 2pm.