West Lothian Council has been forced to remove public benches from outside of a council building because of anti-social behaviour by teens.
People using the Dave King Partnership centre in East Calder have been frightened by the youths – who have been hurling racist abuse at a member of the public.
One of the local councillors for the village, Carl John said: “It’s really sad that [it happened in] East Calder. I am not aware of having racial problems in the past. All of a sudden this seems to have sprung up in the past couple of months.”
The recently completed £3.5m building on Main Street, which houses the library and council services, has public halls which cater for all ages from mothers and toddlers to pensioners groups as well as interests such as needlecraft and dancing.
Councillors raised the problem with police at a recent meeting of the East Livingston and East Calder Local Area Committee.
Referring to disturbances around the entrance to the building, SNP councillor John said: “It’s more than once it’s happened now.”
And groups using the centre at night feel intimidated by the youths gathered at the public benches outside the centre shouting through the windows – disturbing their meetings, councillors at the local area committee were told.
Councillor John added: “I sit as a board member of ELREC (Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council) and founder member of West Lothian Racial Equality.
“I have been boasting for the last couple of years in Edinburgh at our ELREC meetings that we haven’t had any racial problems, and the very next day after the last board meeting it seemed to all kick off.”
The councillor said he believed the youths involved were aged about 13 – 15.
He told the committee that the gang disperses when a police van comes, but added that as soon as the van leaves, the teenagers return.
“I think there are moves afoot to remove the benches outside the partnership centre,” said Councillor John.
He added: “If we unfortunately have to move the benches that might help.
“It’s really sad to see this happening in a village I have lived in for 50 plus years and wasn’t really aware of this sort of thing.
“Forty years ago it was orange and green, there were sectarian issues, but this is actually black and white now, which is sad.”
Constable Ewan Hannay told the meeting: “Anything that has been reported will be taken very seriously.
“Any sort of hate crime is taken incredibly seriously by West Lothian police so it will be getting investigated to the fullest extent it can.”
The Partnership building was renamed following the death of former Labour councillor Dave King, a long serving councillor and lifetime champion of the village
A West Lothian Council spokesperson confirmed this week: “The benches outside the Dave King Partnership Centre in East Calder are set to be removed, in agreement with the centre’s management committee and East Calder Community Football Club.
“We regret this step was necessary due to incidents of anti-social behaviour in the area, with discussions held with Police Scotland over the issue.”
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