HOME Secretary Dr John Reid visited Accrington on a whistlestop tour on Tuesday and spoke exclusively to the Observer about issues affecting the borough.
A tough-talking Scot, 59-year-old Dr Reid praised the Observer for its campaign in highlighting the need for women to feel safe taking taxis, following our exclusive report on Hyndburn Council granting a private hire licence to a convicted sex offender and said: "The Government has brought in some of the toughest controls in the world for sex offenders because it's a subject the public takes very seriously indeed.
"More power to the Observer and its campaign and I know the local Labour group are behind it as well because it's a matter of public safety."
He added: "In terms of law and order I want to tackle young hooligans and David Cameron is giving them hugs. We are providing schemes to tackle anti-social behaviour and many Conservative councils won't use them.
"We are trying to put more police and community safety officers on the streets, and neighbourhood wardens.
"They are completely out of step with the needs of local people to be safer and protected. Neighbourhood wardens are the links between authorities and the local community.
"That's why the local Labour group wanted more to come to this area to emphasise our commitment to protecting the public."
Mr Reid was also concerned about recent racially-aggravated fights between gangs of white and Asian youths in the Milnshaw Park area reported exclusively in the Observer last week.
He said: "Nobody should make any excuses for people who use violence against others. I don't care what their background, colour or race is, there's no excuse for using violence, guns, knives and anything of that nature."
He said it was the responsibility of the Government to tackle this using measures such as SureStart centres, education, putting more police on the beat and creating more jobs.
Mr Reid added: "A lot of social crimes and anti-social issues are just not being tackled the way they want to be and that's another reason people up here want to discuss issues like that.
"I'm sure the local people will take their chance to express their views on 3 May."
Dr Reid who was visiting the area to help Hyndburn's Labour Party launch its local election campaign, later left Accrington to go to Blackburn.
Following a lunch meeting at the office of Hyndburn MP Greg Pope, he visited the new health centre currently being built on Paradise Street, Accrington.
Mr Pope said: "It was fantastic for the Home Secretary to visit at my request. I was very proud to have him here and I think it underlines how important the Labour Party in Hyndburn takes tackling crime and anti-social behaviour. "
Labour leader Councillor Graham Jones said: "It just shows that ministers do care about places like Hyndburn and are very interested in what's going on.
"John was very enthusiastic about what is happening in the borough."