Last Thursday’s Crime and Disorder Committee meeting was not
especially notable. Mick Barnbrook had written in in advance to request
permission to ask a question but had been refused. Before the meeting commenced
he asked the chairman councillor Alan Downing if he might speak to him. Downing
said he was not prepared to speak to Mr. Barnbrook except in the presence of
another councillor, and no Tories were around at the time. I have no idea what
Mick wished to say but whatever it was it doesn’t sit well with Bexley’s
‘Listening to You’ slogan.
In contrast, councillor Mike Slaughter wandered over to me and Chris Attard, the Lesnes ward UKIP candidate for 2014, for a friendly word or two. I have the impression he didn’t know who I was but maybe he was just being discreet.
Total members of the public present was just four. The Youth Panel who were supposed to show up didn’t. Neither did councillor Cheryl Bacon; I wonder why that was.
The meeting itself was just a catalogue of statistics delivered by police Superintendent Peter Ayling and council officers. The chairman made no preliminary announcement; no welcome to anyone, no warning about recording.
Peter Ayling said burglaries were down 10% this year, criminal damage down 12%, violent crime down 16·5% and that Bexley was improving rather more quickly than other London boroughs. Vehicle crime however presents “challenges”.
On the previous day, Wednesday, there had been eight arrests and nine charges centred on early morning raids on second hand outlets. £6,000 in cash was seized along with 700 mobile phones, 20 of which had already been confirmed as stolen.
Recent weeks had seen an increase in the number of robberies, most of smart phones from young victims in the Thamesmead area and they were getting increasingly violent. Fortunately some good police work had led to arrests.
Councillor Steven Hall asked Ayling how many bicycles, vans and cars were available. Not unnaturally the precise figures weren’t available but 54 bicycles, two moto-cross bikes, three Sprinter (riot) vans, two prison vans and “enough” cars were mentioned. There were fewer cars than last year but their availability was increased following revised maintenance arrangements.
Councillor Brenda Langstead asked if Tasers had been used and was told they had been “once or twice”. You’d think something like that would be known more accurately. They had been drawn more often but not used. Peter Ayling said he was “a real advocate of it” but also said he was glad it had never been tested on him. It should be.
Councillor Alex Sawyer asked about the number of crimes committed by persons born outside the UK. No statistics were to hand but it is a “priority given very close attention”. Compared to other boroughs, Bexley had a very low proportion of foreign nationals going through the custody suite. A couple of Romanians had proved to be very prolific offenders in their home country and been sent back there.
Councillor Michael Tarrant asked about the number of cautions but again no figures were to hand.
A lady from the Probation Service gave a presentation on developments there but the delivery was monotonous and I didn’t understand a word of it. I am therefore grateful to councillor Mike Slaughter for stepping in immediately it was finished to pronounce it “gobbledegook”. The chairman said “we need more explanation”. The lady was asked what effect a reorganisation of the Probation Service would have and except that no redundancies were expected she said nobody could know the effect until a successful bidder was chosen in 2014.
Councillor Val Clark asked if the Probation Service was introducing change for change’s sake and received the odd reply that had the Service been funded properly they would have done the same - but no one knew what the effect would be.
At this the chairman offered a few kindly words in an effort to prevent further embarrassment and sent the the lady on her way. That’s the second time recently that people from the Probation Service have been found wanting.
Moving on to the subject of the Community Safety Partnership, councillor Philip Read asked cabinet member Don Massey if there had been much of a take up by immigrants of the leaflets on learning English and was rewarded with “I haven’t a clue’.
Council officer David Bryce-Smith said that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) had nearly doubled its annual grant to Bexley and it now stands at £210,000. Don Massey had different ideas about MOPAC, He said that both he and the leader were “incensed” by MOPAC and they had created “one gigantic mess”. The Bobby Van for Bromley was funded while Bexley’s was not following near identical bids. Their delaying tactics were “unacceptable”.
On the matter of The Big Crime Survey, councillor Sawyer was concerned about council consultations which were wholly on line and people in the North of the borough were less likely to have access to the internet. David Bryce-Smith said it was done to save money and “resources were limited’.
Councillor Tarrant wanted to know, now that scrap vans had to be licenced, how he would know if they didn’t have one so that he can report them. Tarrant is very keen on reporting people as those of us with long memories know. The answer was that he couldn’t. He’ll have to go back to riffling through dustbins.
The meeting ended just after 21:30 by which time I was the only member of the public still there.