Changes to the way Essex Police will engage with local communities

Essex Police have described the changes to the way they will engage with local communities.

• Local PCSOs will hold a weekly ‘street meet’ on their patch
• Every district will hold five or six Local Community Meetings (every eight weeks) (six in the Borough of Southend-on-Sea)
• Local Community Meetings (LCMs) will be chaired by supervisory officer (sergeant or above)
• Every LCM and street meet will be advertised on the Essex Police website in advance
• The website will show agreed local priorities as well as the activity taken to address them.

The letter I have seen includes this: While the new police-led meetings structure will replace police attendance at the NAPs, local communities are encouraged to continue to hold these meetings if they feel they provide value.

Implementation of the new structure will start on October 1st with expectation that all community areas and PCSOs will be delivering the meetings by November 1st.

The first Southend Central LCM will be held on 15th December 2014.

(It was not encouraging to see that their letter had the wrong URL for the Essex Police website.)


I went to the penultimate Milton Neighbourhood Meeting (also known as the NAP) tonight. The very last will be on November 20th.

Owing to financial pressures (i.e. the cuts) these six-weekly ward meetings will be replaced from December by Local Community Meetings. These will meet every eight weeks, and there will be six of them across the borough.

Southend Central LCM will cover three wards: Kursaal, Milton and Victoria.

I am disappointed to see the end of the Milton NMs in sight, but I will work to ensure that the LCMs are a success. I have sought (and received) assurances that the new process will be reviewed after a period of time (a year or so).

Oh Rolf, and Jimmy, and Gary, and Stuart (and Cyril, too)

I reached double figures in November 1969. The 1970s embraced all of my teens, as well as some of the most formative years of my life (so far).

The past, they say, is a different country. I think it is several different countries, because my experience does not tally with the victims of the seemingly abundant celebrity sex offenders. I had a very sheltered upbringing and an all-male senior school. Girls were aliens who didn’t play football and cricket, did not like rock music, and who preferred to avoid gang-huts and silliness.

The seventies are a minefield of fallen or falling idols, and even those who have cleared their names have quietly drifted away. The seventies make for some very selective viewing as sex-offenders are excised from the archive TV channels. Anyone who follows Top Of The Pops 1979 has to adapt to gaps in the viewing schedule as some of the DJ presenters are now considered unsuitable for consumption. It feels like my past is being re-written. Looking back is to see an increasingly incomplete picture, a canvass edited as the awful are being removed.

I was never a fan of Jimmy Saville – I found him odd and annoying. I did like Rolf Harris who struck me as an anodyne entertainer. At one time I could recite all of Two Little Boys, and enjoyed a giggle at The Court Of King Caractacus. I was charmed by the wobble-board, and did try to see if I knew what it was yet. Seeing his fall from grace makes we wonder what else is to come out, who will be next.

It cannot be just me who wonders how we created a society that allowed so much abuse to happen. This is not just lapses of judgement by isolated individuals, this is collaborative, organised, systematic wrongdoing – aided by those who preferred to look the other way, rather than question and hold to account. It looks like elements of The Establishment were at best complacent, arguably culpable, and certainly derelict in their duty.

It does make me wonder about the past, the years that I am often nostalgic about, albeit always aware of some grim realities. Whilst those who have been caught should be punished, has the system that allowed this to happen changed? I do not know. But I do know that as shocking as the revelations are (and thank goodness for Operation Yewtree) I am more appalled by the apparent ‘so what?’ culture that was evidently in place three decades and more ago.

In my sphere, politics, sex scandals are frequent news. None, in my experience, come close the apparent depravity shown by Cyril Smith, a Liberal MP who came across as a person of integrity and honesty – oh how we were fooled. Although not of the same order, Chris Rennard has much to answer for.

All of us have feet of clay, anyone can do stupid things. Everyone has a past, is entitled to their past, and should be allowed to move on. What is utterly wrong, though, is a conspiracy of silence and acceptance.

No no no no no no no no no no no go

Two meetings last night. the first being the Southend Trades Council. I do not often get to their meetings, usually because of a diary clash, but I am acutely aware of the importance of trade unions. The dominating item was the impending strike by public sector workers, a strike for fair pay. The public sector has certainly seen falling standards of living since the Coalition came to power, and it can be no surprise that after four years of squeezed pay packets they are feeling rebellious.

Alston - Whitehouse - Kavanagh

Alston – Whitehouse – Kavanagh

I went straight from the STC meeting (in Southchurch) to the Essex Police Challenge Meeting in Westcliff-on-Sea. This was hosted by the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston. He was accompanied by his deputy, Lindsay Whitehouse, who managed to read an extract from one email in the whole two hours. Also at the top table was Stephen Kavanagh, Essex Police’s Chief Constable, who made some substantial contributions.

The subjects covered: the two recent Colchester murders, police performance, local policing model, and the summer demand. There was also a question and answer session.

It was largely a public relations exercise. Some statistics were distributed, but I found these mostly frustrating owing to the lack of reference data. The audience was around the forty mark, and this included five Borough councillors (two from Labour, and one each from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Independent Group.)

Cllr Mike Assenheim (Independent, Shoeburyness) made the somewhat startling assertion that it was “well known that there are several no-go areas in Southend”. Well known? Not to this councillor it ain’t. I can confidently state that there are no no-go areas in either the ward I represent, Milton, or where I live in Leigh-on-Sea. If he reads this I hope he will enlighten me as to where he considers these no-go areas to be. Those residents about to be stigmatised by Cllr Assenheim will doubtless rejoice.

I am not about to pretend that there are no violent incidents in the Borough, I think my ward has had its fair share of these. But these do not make the site of these incidents out-of-bounds to anyone. I am frequently out and about in my ward, and not just during daylight hours. I am often alone. It is a safe ward with lots of civic-minded and law-abiding residents. If anyone tells me that they feel unsafe in any street my response is to contact the local policing team and request extra patrols. These requests have so far not been ignored. I cannot speak for Shoeburyness, which parts of which may fit Cllr Assenheim’s description – he knows his ward far better than I do – but even if on occasions true it cannot be helpful to make these sort of public outbursts.

Nick Alston finished the event by stating how accountable he was, and what an improvement he is on the previous governance regime. Aside from commenting about self praise being no recommendation, I also wonder how truly accountable he is. For starters only one in thirty-five Southenders voted for him, and as he carries a party affiliation he is as likely (if not more likely) to have been elected owing to this as to anything else. He cannot escape the fact that he now represents a politicised police force.

Domestic abuse freephone number

Victims of domestic abuse crimes have a Freephone number they can call so that they can get updates on the progress of their case without any cost. This number offers an alternative for those suffering from domestic abuse to make contact with Essex Police and is answered by the force centralised switchboard, who will transfer the caller to the most appropriate person to resolve their call.

The number is 0800 358 0351.

Calls to the Freephone number are free from landlines and may cost between 14p – 20p a minute from mobile telephones depending upon the service provider. Callers from mobiles can ask to be called back if they are worried about the cost.

Minute 668 Counter Fraud Update Report

Councillor Paul Collins (Liberal Democrat, Westborough) has written this: At last night’s Council meeting a labour Councillor attacked the report to the last Audit Committee which was presented to us on the current work being done by the Councils’ counter fraud team to challenge and uncover Fraud within and outside the Council.

Attacked? I think he means expressed unease – which is the words I actually used. I am less keen than he is to give extra powers to Council officers. I note that Cllr Collins also says that it “is my duty … that we challenge these reports as presented to us”. It is my duty too, although evidently when I do it I am attacking.

Here is what I actually said in the chamber:

This rather innocuous minute includes a proposal for Council Cops.

Under the Council’s plans, counter-fraud teams will be given new powers to carry out investigations independently of the police and other law enforcement agencies, including the ability to execute search warrants and seize assets that could be the proceeds of crime or benefit fraud.

In the last year benefit fraud and error accounted for 2.1 per cent of total benefit expenditure, ensuring the recovery of this public money is of top priority. However, giving council employees these powers seem draconian, unnecessary and a duplication of the proper authority and procedures of the police.

During the meeting it was announced that the powers will include access to various data sources, including the electoral roll and Tesco clubcard records.

We can all agree that benefit cheats must be caught and punished, and public monies recovered, but that these proposals leaves me distinctly uneasy.

Entering people’s homes, executing warrants and seizing property should be carried out in the proper manner, by the proper authorities. The police are accountable to the judiciary and a number of other public bodies, these new ‘council cops’ are expected to have all the powers, but where is the accountability?

In addition, the Council is proposing to use powers that have been available since 1985, and I wondered why nearly twenty-nine years have elapsed without need to seek recourse through these powers.

I wanted a response, I got a response; reassurances about policing the homeless

I was quite taken aback by an article in last week’s Yellow Advertiser and I wrote to the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner as a result. My letter is here.

I received this response:

Dear Cllr Ware-Lane
Thank you for drawing my attention to the article in the Yellow Advertiser about homelessness in Southend.
You might want to know that I discussed the matter promptly with the Chief Constable of Essex Police, and I understand that he has written to the editor of the Yellow Advertiser to ensure the position of the force is not misunderstood.
I’ve personally talked with several Southend officers and I know that they have a sympathetic understanding of the challenges of homelessness.
I think it’s important that homeless people are treated respectfully and professionally by police and partner agencies, and I have stated this publicly in my latest blog piece for our website.

Working with everyone in our communities
I’m very proud to be Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex: we live in a diverse and vibrant county where many different communities and groups live side by side, generally in a spirit of respect and compassion.
There has recently been some publicity about police and partner initiatives working with homeless people in Southend.
People become homeless for a variety of reasons, most often not by choice. Family breakdown, loss of a job, sometimes a mental health problem such as an episode of severe depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after military service – there are many factors and types of vulnerability that can lead to a life on the streets. These same factors and others can also lead to the misuse of alcohol and drugs which sometimes can add to the challenges of homelessness.
I am pleased that Essex Police is working closely with Southend Borough Council, the Homeless Action Resource Project (HARP), with charities and mental health associations, and with the Southend Multi-Agency Anti-social behaviour Response Team (SMAART) to provide support to homeless people. Sometimes police officers will need to act to enforce the law or prevent crime from happening, and sometimes officers can and do help individuals find support to improve their lives with partner agencies and charities.
Homeless people often find themselves in vulnerable situations, and can be victims of crime. For those who may be suffering with mental health problems, I note that a pilot project is currently being run across south Essex involving specialist mental health nurses working alongside police officers to provide early support and intervention. I welcome this initiative, and have asked for evidence of its impact to be gathered and compared with the experience in north Essex which is not part of the pilot project.
We live in a great county, where Essex Police and partner agencies are doing their utmost to keep our communities and businesses safe whilst also offering support to some of the most vulnerable amongst us.


Thank you again for raising this matter with me.
Yours sincerely
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex


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