This is the text of my latest Opinion column first published in the Brighton Argus on Wednesday 22nd July 2015)
If Brighton and Hove City Council are to ban smoking from public parks and the beach, can I suggest that they go further by banning and enforcing alcohol and drug use as well.
Recent reports of needles in the toilets on The Level and injecting in the Dorset Gardens Peace Park are just the tip of the iceberg. I was told about an incident in the last month where two Council employees were observed challenging a couple drinking larger in the Pavilion Gardens, but ignored a couple of older women drinking gin and tonic from cans and a couple smoking cannabis.
As someone who walks my dog on The Level, there are times of day when that area can be particularly unpleasant.
I would strongly support a ban on alcohol, drug and tobacco use in our parks and on the beach. But for such a ban to work, it must be enforced. Sadly, over the years, successive administrations of all colours have allowed a drift from front-line employees to desk-bound officers.
Gone are the Parks Police of yesteryear, replaced by much higher paid policy, strategy and co-ordinating staff who produce great policy and strategy documents but who make little difference to the lives of ordinary people who use our parks.
Given the saturation of alcohol outlets in the City and associated social and health problems (thanks to the deregulation of licensing by the Blair government) wouldn’t it be great if there were a few oases in the town where cigarettes, alcohol and drugs were absent?