On the first of May 2012 I attended a meeting of Cambridge’s Community Safety Partnership, held in the Guildhall.
The meeting was rendered almost pointless by the absence of both elected councillors who should have been there, Cambridge City Council’s executive councillor for policing, Tim Bick (Liberal Democrat) and Police Authority representative and the partnership’s “citizen focus champion” Cllr Kevin Wilkins (Liberal Democrat). Without the councillors there is no one in the room expressing the view of, or defending the interests of, the public. The gathering became a waste of time, practically a morning off, for a bunch mostly senior and very highly paid public servants.
Neither councillor had offered apologies or explanations for their absence. There was an empty chair with Cllr Bick’s name in front of it at the table.
Compounding the absence of the elected representatives, no representative of Cambridge Magistrates was present either.
When he has been present at previous meetings of the partnership Cllr Bick has led the critical questioning following each report; without him, or anyone to fill his place, each report was simply presented and there was no one to raise any questions. The only comments those making reports received from their fellow professionals were ones of vacuous mutual congratulation; many of these contributions suggested some of those present had been watching too much “twenty twelve”.
I used the public question slot on the agenda, I noted I was coming back and making another suggestion of something the Community Safety Partnership could be doing, despite the suggestion I made at a previous meeting that it could work on encouraging it’s member bodies, and the local policing, crime and justice sector as whole to operate more openly and transparently, having been summarily dismissed.
I’d like to suggest the partnership co-ordinate the various “Neighbourhood Resolution Panels” in operation in, and being proposed for, Cambridge.
The city council already runs a neighbourhood resolution scheme and has recently adopted a policy of pursuing a new scheme with a slightly different remit. The police are proposing their own separate but similar scheme. The Home Secretary has recently reportedly announced plans for another similar concept which result in a fourth scheme.
In my view some clarity, co-ordination and simplification is is needed.
I noted the council had had problems consulting with groups such as the probation service, who had not understood what they were consulting on, thinking they were being asked about the police scheme, and suggested this showed better co-ordination and awareness among the public bodies involved or what was being done was needed.
My written question submitted contained a link to my article following the council’s adoption of a policy to pursue its neighbourhood resolution panel scheme for Cambridge.
The meeting’s chair, Cambridge City Council’s Director of Customer and Community Services, Liz Bisset (on ££91,891/year) responded to say that the partnership only takes on new areas of work once a year and suggestions raised would be considered at the appropriate time.
Liz Bisset asked Linda Kilkelly, Cambridge City Council’s Safer Communities Manager (who also spells her name Lynda) to respond.
Kilkelly started by denying there was any overlap between the council’s existing remediation scheme and the resolution scheme it had recently approved.
Kilkelly said she was not aware of any other schemes.
This was an astonishing admission by council officer Kilkelly as it shows she had not read the police response to the council’s consultation on introducing its own scheme and that she had not been paying attention during the December 2011 meeting of the partnership where the police also reported their plans to introduce their own scheme.
Kilkelly went on to claim that the Youth Offending Service had managed to respond to the council’s consultation on introducing it’s own restorative justice scheme and had done so positively. I clarified that Kilkelly really meant the Youth Offending Service, and not the probation service (whose response the council has published in response to a FOI request) and she said she did.
Apparently responding to my previous article in which I noted:
The Government’s specification document strongly recommends oversight arrangements involving local Magistrates and others. There are no proposals for oversight in the proposal document for the Cambridge scheme.
Kilkelly said that was an area the council had to work on, and said the council might talk to the CSP about that aspect. (The CSP is the only body I’m aware of which brings the council and the magistrates together).
Speeding in 20MPH Limits/Zones
A second public question came from Mr Lawton, though he was not present to ask it in person.
He wanted to know why speeding was not one of the things the partnership was working on; he urged the partnership to look at what was being discussed at area committees and give weight to that when setting its priorities. Mr Lawton suggested speeding vehicles were a serious safety hazard in the city so ought be tackled by the safety partnership.
Prior to the meeting I saw the chair, officer Bisset, ask Chief Inspector Sloan of Cambridgeshire Police if he would answer the question. Mr Lawton’s question referred to Victoria Avenue and Maid’s Causeway however the inspector didn’t know where these roads were, or the speed limits in force on them and had to have the situation described to him by the chair.
The most interesting element of the Chief Inspector’s response was that the West Central Area Committee’s recent setting of tackling speeding in 20MPH limits as a priority had been accepted by the police. It will be interesting to find out if this decision was made at a Neighbourhood Action Group meeting, or if it was made unilaterally by the police.
Officer Bisset responded to say that she doesn’t know how the Roads Safety Partnership’s responsibilities relate to those of the Community Safety Partnership.
Another member of the partnership suggested collecting data from the ambulance service on city centre traffic incident injuries.
On the area committee’s point, the chair asked for a new “local issues” agenda item to be added to future Community Safety Partnership meetings highlighting matters raised at the area committees.
Notable Points from the Meeting
- Chief Inspector Sloan spoke about a recent rise in “theft from person”, other than robbery, mainly thefts of mobile phones and other electronic items from pubs and cafes in the city centre. The partnership was told this crime was moving into cafes in the daytime, the trend having started in the evenings in pubs. The Chief Inspector said the “national mobile phone theft unit” was helping the local force as the crime was being organised on a national basis. Door staff have been trained in recognising thieves and pick-pockets. A member of the partnership said they had dressed up as a mobile phone to draw attention to the problem and this had been covered in the press. The partnership said they wanted to do more self-promotion along those lines.
- The meeting was told that “Integrated Offender Management” had come into being in Cambridge as of the 2nd of April, and that “offending families” not just individuals were being considered. A launch event, for professionals, had been held at the Arbury Community Centre. The meeting was told that “Inclusion” had become the new “drug service supplier” (Contract obtained via FOI).
- The city council is running “street surgeries” on the subject of how to report anti-social behaviour. There was a discussion of if a case study of an anti-social behaviour case ought be brought to the partnership in anonomised form to highlight the problems co-ordinating action from different bodies. Some present felt this would actually bring some purpose to the meeting, others argued it would be too complex and better suited to an “away day”.
- Differences between ambulance service and Addenbrooke’s derived violent crime injury data was discussed. One issue being what people chose to tell hospital administrators, another being the wide catchment area of Addenbrooke’s for trauma cases.
- The meeting was told Cambridgeshire County Council were increasing their domestic violence staff from 5.2 Full Time Equivalent to 7.2, and were told these people go out to cases with the police. The meeting was told that in the past there were staff posts vacant as it was hard to fill posts advertised for short term contracts. On statistics reported was that high risk Domestic Violence cases have a 100% repeat offence rate (presumably they mean cases identified as high risk before the repeat offence occurs / is reported).
- The annual budget of the partnership is about £90,000 and they have £20,000 unspent. They talked about pitching to a new police and crime commissioner, via a “strategic assessment” aimed at keeping their budget.
- The partnership changed their vice-chair and edited their terms of reference so they contained their current priorities.
- The partnership resolved to clarify that matters relating to road safety were not their core business and that they are not the Road Safety Partnership.
The meeting was a complete waste of time.
No discussion or co-ordination took place; there was no working together between the various arms of the state represented.
Each group was simply reporting its “news”, the vast majority of which could be gleaned from reading the local paper.
My view is that such a group should exist, and there are things it could usefully be doing, as I’ve suggested myself to the partnership using their public speaking slot. They could better co-ordinate the production of statistics, particularly for councillors setting priorities at area committee meetings and co-ordinate the proactive release of information so the whole policing and justice sector operates in public, and seek to prevent overlap where multiple bodies end up doing the same thing.
In many cases I think we need sharper boundaries between the roles of the various bodies. For example I think it’s crazy that the city council is trying to encroach on the roles of the police (though its anti-social behaviour team) and the courts (through its new restorative justice panels). Each organisation should stick to its core role, and what its supposed to be doing. The role of the partnership should be making sure the interfaces between the organisations work, and preventing duplication of effort.