Councils urged to evict pushers

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The Independent Online

Tom Sackville, a junior Home Office minister, yesterday urged local authorities to extend the practice of evicting convicted drug dealers from their council houses. But councils that have adopted eviction measures said the Government had to give them more powers to remove the dealers and stop them returning.

Speaking at a crime prevention conference in Leicester, Mr Sackville said the fight against drugs was central to the fight against crime. "Drug dealers are the lowest of the low. It is quite wrong that they should be supported in their activities by public provision of housing while seeking to corrupt local children for personal gain. Those convicted of drug dealing who live in a council house or flat should be evicted at once. I am glad to hear that a number of councils are doing just that."

He cited Blyth Valley, Northumbria, which includes a specific clause to this effect in tenancy agreements. "I would encourage all local authorities who haven't already done so, to step up their efforts against dealers operating from council properties in their area."

Manchester City Council was the first to draw up the anti-dealer clause. It has since "sold" it to 200 other local authorities. But Claire Nangle, the council's housing chairwoman, said councils had been lobbying Mr Sackville for strengthened measures to crack down on dealers.

"Mr Sackville has conveniently forgotten all the things that would allow us to do it. You can't just say 'evict drug dealers'. He's taken power away from the councils. We're asking for more powers. He cannot have it both ways."

Ms Nangle said she represented Moss Side, where evicted dealers came back to sell drugs anyway. "We're asking for more powers to exclude perpetrators of crime . . . We want witness-protection measures, as a lot of residents are afraid to come forwards."

The council was also lobbying for specialist housing courts, which would make it easier to evict convicted dealers.