WELCOME TO ALL FELLOW CAMPAIGNERS for DISABILITY RIGHTS - a pan disability blog connecting my work with, EQUAL LIVES, the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) and the Survivor History Group.

Protest, Norwich Job Centre

Protest, Norwich Job Centre
Fatso Gets Militant!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

'ello 'ello - wot's this 'ere then

Here in rural south and south east Norfolk we’re in the throes of the Safer Neighbourhoods police initiative being set up. Yesterday evening (05.09.07.) I went to the first announced SNAP (Safer Neighbourhoods Action Panel?) public meeting which turned out to be intended to introduce the panel and the scheme and to consult those present on what the panel’s local priorities should be.

The first thing that has to be said is that the meeting was very well attended but
unfortunately, badly organised and a veritable shambles. Most importantly, from my point of view as Chair of the Norfolk Constabulary/Police Authority Disability Equality Duty Forum, it was in breach of the Disability Equality Schemes of all three agencies involved (the police, Norfolk County Council and South Norfolk Council) and as such, discriminatory (For example there was no provision for people with sensory deficits and the venue was unsafe for wheelchair users even if they were able to get in). I did point this out at the meeting and, afterwards, spoke to the Chief Inspector of police present and the South Norfolk Council representative about it.

There was no essential basic information there, such as the geographic area of the team and its lines of accountability and the police presentation was almost all rhetoric which, as people there said, went over their heads. The police Sergeant for the area team was present on the panel but couldn’t tell me the area covered when I asked her after the meeting. Other members of the team were not introduced and, as far as I could see, were not even present.

Referring to the SNAP panel, one person present pointed out “this is just another
QUANGO.” And indeed, that is pretty accurate. The panel of about 14 people appears to
be composed of the usual worthies who appear to have been invited secretly to take part. There was certainly no public knowledge of who they were before the meeting and they were presented as a fait accompli. The stated reason for choosing the panel as it is, is that some of its members are existing elected representatives of the agencies involved and therefore democratic! A local vicar? A local headmaster? A retired police officer?

The panel did introduce itself one by one to the meeting but with one exception virtually whispered their names, titles and functions at the beginning of the meeting when a microphone hadn’t been thought necessary and when, after that, a microphone was set up it wasn’t thought necessary to re-introduce the panel so that I and many others still don’t know who they all are. I had to arrange, after the meeting, for a South Norfolk Council representative to send me on a list.

Criticised by several members of the public there as “a waste of time,” in my opinion the one successful section of the meeting was an open consultation session with the audience to contribute to the setting up of the SNAP Panel priorities for action. Afterwards, the panel retired into a corner for discussion while everyone chatted amongst themselves and then reconvened to announce that their first priorities are:

• Anti-social and criminal behaviour in Loddon;

• Anti-social and criminal behaviour in Thurlton and Norton; and

• Speeding traffic (with a special focus on motorbikes) on the A146 in Stockton.

Other concerns expressed by the public were: a) Projects set up in Loddon tend to stick in Loddon and Chedgrave - they become Loddon-centric, ignoring the rest of the surrounding communities. An example cited was the Loddon GP practice Patient Participation Group which, at their meetings, have no-one attending from outside Loddon and Chedgrave. The SNAP panel was urged that they must be pro-active in reaching out to the surrounding communities. b) The police are all talk. They set up initiatives rhetorically to meet the requirements of government but never turn their words into action and are guilty of the worst kind of tokenism.

In the absence of the information at the meeting, I did find out today that:

• The Loddon Safer Neighbourhood Team area covers Loddon and Chedgrave and the
area loosely bordered by Ditchingham, Burgh St. Peter, Seething, Burgh Apton and
Claxton. The team will comprise of one Police Constable and two Police Community
Support Officers initially, with a further one PCSO recruited towards the end of the
year. There is a Sergeant overseeing this and two other Teams. They will work in
close partnership with other local agencies to address and respond to community
concerns. (http://www.safernorfolk.co.uk/your-neighbourhood/

In the light of this its hardly surprising they didn’t want this information known at the meeting - a PC and two Community Support Officers to cover what is a large rural area!!!!!!

That website also says:

Actions being taken for Loddon Neighbourhood

* To patrol on a regular basis. The dedicated Loddon SNT officers Will set up
regular surgeries which will enable residents to pass on their concerns to the local
service providers for the area.

* The SNT will conduct high visibility patrols in the area both on foot and as cycle patrols. They will also work in partnership with the South Norfolk District Council anti social behaviour team to address the issues.

* The Sergeant and Police Constable have been identified and are now being
recruited to the team. Two of the three Police Community Support Officers are
already working and are undergoing their initial tutoring period, with a further
officer being recruited towards the end of the year.

At the meeting I did ask for a member of the panel to be identified as an equality, diversity and disability contact and after the meeting a County Councillor and Norfolk Police Authority member came forward to say he will be happy to act as the SNAP panel equality, diversity and disability contact here.

There are 52 Safer Neighbourhoods in Norfolk. I can liaise with one of these but how do we retain contact with the others - there are certainly not enough of us on the police disabilty forum to cover all of these. We could, I suppose, if the police relax their traditional secrecy enough, identify a strategic central body if there is one. But that won't deal with LOCAL matters.

I'm minded that this takes on some similarity to a PPI forum of 16 members attempting to operate to the now Norfolk wide PCT. AND, I'm minded to conclude it will be an impossibility for LINks to operate in this geographical context.


Andy Robinson said...

Hi Mike,
seems like my own experience of much of the DED consultation process and in our case so called 'scrutiny'which turns out to be a report of what is /has been done and very infrequent meetings and the agenda set by the authority.But thats what authorities are used to telling not listening.

Anonymous said...

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