Ah, neighbourhoods, neighbourhoods (Want to be a victim of crime? Come to Central Southend!)

Essex Police divide the glorious county up into neighbourhoods. The urban paradise that is Southend-on-Sea has six neighbourhoods. The neighbourhoods are not of equal size, and nor do they all share the same characteristics. Therefore, comparison is fraught with all sorts of complications. Nonetheless, given statistical information I am not going to ignore the possibilities.

I represent Milton ward, one of the three wards that make up Southend Central neighbourhood.

The most recent data I have shows the following for the six neighbourhoods in Southend-on-Sea.

Neighbourhood Crimes November 2014
Blenheim 276
Eastwood 106
Leigh 177
Southend Central 647
Shoebury 134
Southchurch 220

The two neighbouring local authorities data:

Neighbourhood Crimes November 2014
Canvey 224
Rayleigh 138
Rochford 118
Benfleet 78
Thundersley 70
Hadleigh 44
Hockley 39
Wakering 26
Hulbridge 14
Ashingdon & Canewdon 12

Highlights from the rest of Essex:

Neighbourhood Crimes November 2014
Harlow Central 318
Clacton Central 278
Ardleigh 5
Bradfield 4
Alresford 1

And there you have it – there were twice as many recorded crimes in Southend Central as in any other neighbourhood in Essex in November 2014. Could be a blip, could be that folks in Southend Central are more diligent in reporting crime. Could be. Could be more crime-ridden, too.

Now you know why cuts to policing are so unpalatable in Milton ward.

The broken window theory

The broken window theory essentially states that even one broken window normalises anti-social behaviour, effectively encouraging a second broken window, and then a third, and etc. The logical conclusion to be drawn is that of zero tolerance. Fix the small things, all small things, and the rest follows.

As a local councillor I am often confronted by low-level vandalism, graffiti, littering and the such like. My role is to encourage the local authority and police to address these issues, and I have had some success. However, in an era that sees local services and public services constrained by shrinking budgets it is becoming increasing difficult to sort out the broken windows; as resources become scarcer prioritisation is necessary. I understand the pressures and I understand that violent crime, for instance, has to be tackled before less serious crimes. However, there are consequences. I suspect we will see untidier neighbourhoods, for instance.

Cuts have consequences. With less money you get less. Of course, some of the cuts can come through services being more efficient, but this can only account for a fraction of what has to be saved. In policing, for instance, when Essex Police has to a more than a £70 million cut to accommodate it inevitably means fewer front-line police. Smarter policing will follow, but fewer police is not something that I have been asked to deliver; quite the contrary.

Invariably people want to see bobbies on the beat, they want the low-level vandalism sorted, they want safe neighbourhoods and criminals caught. They want zero tolerance; they are going to have to accept the reverse.

Austerity has a price.

Labour vigilant in Milton

After a number of incidents in Milton ward over the last year, local Labour campaigners are re-assuring Milton’s residents, and those who work in and visit the ward, that they are working with Police to ensure that these isolated events remain isolated.

Gray Sergeant, Labour’s candidate for Milton at the 2015 elections, said, “I am looking forward to speaking with residents, and to listening and responding to their concerns around crime. Together we can build a safer community.”

Cheryl Nevin, Labour councillor for Milton, added, “Councillors have been in dialogue with local police discussing measures to improve visibility around Park Lane following discussions at the Local Community Meetings.”

Julian Ware-Lane, Labour councillor for Milton, said “Recent incidents are not representative of Milton. This is generally a safe ward and very pleasant part of Southend-on-Sea. However, Government cuts to policing make re-assuring the public more difficult. I am committed to ensuring that residents’ concerns are listened to and addressed.”

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.)

NM > LCM

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.

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