A NEW task force has been set up to tackle anti-social behaviour in a city centre.

Action is being taken in response to growing numbers of complaints about problems with day-time drinking, drug taking and other antisocial behaviour in Durham in recent months.

The new task force, which is a sub-group of the City Safety Group, has been set up to look at issues affecting the city, and is due to meet for the first time this month.

Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of community protection, said: “Durham is a fantastic city and we are committed to continuing our focused work with our partners to keep it so.

“All cities in the UK experience some level of anti-social behaviour and in Durham it is limited to the actions of a small number of individuals.

“Where concerns are raised about anti-social behaviour anywhere in the county we work with our partners to investigate and look for any measures which may be appropriate to reduce it. For example, we have recently introduced two dedicated neighbourhood wardens for the city centre.

“We are committed to working with other agencies through the sub-group to respond to any further concerns and identify any additional action which may be necessary.”

Involving people from a range of organisations in Durham, the group will be chaired by Andrew Megginson, from Durham County Council and will also include other council officers and a representative from Durham Police and the City of Durham Parish Council, which organised a conference on the issue in October.

Councillor Elizabeth Scott, chair of parish council, said: "I am delighted at the news that this new task force is to be established.

"At its conference earlier this year, the parish council really set the agenda in trying to put in place actions to tackle both the causes and the impact of anti-social behaviour in the city centre.

"The message from the public is loud and clear – more needs to be done by all partners to tackle the issue."

She added:“Durham City is a fantastic place to live, visit, work and start a business.

"We want to ensure that the reputation of our great city and the experience of both residents and visitors of the city are not marred by the unacceptable behaviour of a small minority."

At the conference in October, those attending came up with a 15 point action plan, which included the establishment of a multi-agency task force.

The action plan has since been adopted by the parish council.

The task force includes neighbourhood inspector Andrea Arthur, neighbourhood protection manager Ian Hoult, consumer protection and licensing manager Owen Cleugh and Adam Shanley, clerk to the parish council.

In October, two new neighbourhood wardens were appointed to focus on the city centre, and particular hot spots around North Road and the Market Place.

The conference heard about complaints from residents on a number of issues, including “aggressive” begging, daytime drinking and late night noise.

It also heard about efforts to tackle problems, including the new neighbourhood wardens, a growing programme of support for homeless people at Sanctuary 21 and campaigns urging students to be respectful of their neighbours.