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Bonkers Blog February 2014

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23 February (Part 2) - Crime and Disorder in Bexley

Council ChamberOnly John Watson and I showed up for last Thursday’s Crime and Disorder Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting - plus the committee and a guest councillor or two of course.

Chairman councillor Alan Downing saw the silly side of asking us if we were going to take photos and if we objected to being photographed, not that it stopped him going through the ritual. I took only one during the meeting.

If there is a highlight to this meeting it is the Borough Commander’s crime report but I had forgotten something. I’d heard his report at the Policing Engagement Group’s meeting three weeks ago. Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling used the same script, so I heard once again that burglaries were up and it was due to too many villains being released from prison at the same time, organised gangs of Romanians and that the higher risk areas were along the A2 corridor which affords an easy escape route.

The questions and complaints were much the same as from the public on 3rd February. That the communications system stinks. No one ever responds to questions, no one ever tells anyone anything. This time it was councillors complaining and giving examples. C.S. Ayling said the new arrangements did not provide for a dedicated communications team but he would try to improve matters.

Councillor Philip Read did not have anything good to say about the council’s crime survey. The numbers participating year on year steadily declines and is now so low that if the figures were divided into wards they would be statistically unreliable. The problem is council cuts. Only half an employee could be spared to organise the survey.

Before all that, Rob Clarke, the Assistant Chief Officer of the London Probation Service, attempted to describe what was about to happen to the probation services. At the previous meeting a lady from the probation service made a right old mess of trying to tell the committee what was going on, a fact that chairman Downing referred back to. Rob Clarke did not do an awful lot better. I once had to give a lecture extolling the virtues of a plan I knew was doomed to failure and so I sympathised with Rob Clarke, although I think I fell short of saying neither the staff nor the Parliamentary Select Committee agrees with the plan which was described as “a very difficult process” and “a very complex process”. Councillor John Wilkinson said “it seems to be a very vague sort of system”.

Councillor Brenda Langstead feared that allowing a private company (Serco was mentioned along the way) to take over probation services would end up with the awful situation which has allowed care workers’ conditions of employment to fall below legal requirements.

Councillor Philip Read picked up on the only good sign: that probation services were to be extended to those who had served fewer than twelve months in prison.

The London Probation Trust will cease to exist on 31st May 2014.

Council officer Diane Kraus (see top right of enlarged photo) spoke about the measures taken in connection with the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act 2013. Clearly it was not as well drafted as it should have been because the procedures licensed scrap collectors must adopt can vary depending on whether scrap is picked up from just inside or outside private property in a way which is both confusing and impractical. The council was having to take a fairly relaxed interpretation but the restrictions explain why I have accumulated over several months a large box of metal taken from old computers, too heavy to lift. In the old days I could have left it on the drive and it would have disappeared within 24 hours. Now it will probably go to landfill. But if it helps keep railway signalling cable out of the hands of Peter Ayling’s Romanians…

Please note; I have a Romanian for a neighbour. You couldn’t meet a nicer bloke.

The pattern detected with the sound system was maintained at this meeting, it was rubbish again, not helped by councillors Cheryl Bacon, John Wilkinson and Michael Tarrant not bothering to switch on their microphones. When will someone remove that ugly white screen which has blighted the chamber all year and reveal the council’s crest before the place is smashed up in May?


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