En route to the Civic Offices and while deciding whether to press the button and create gridlock in Gravel
Hill or wait for a gap in the traffic I pondered how many times the name
Caroline Newton may have been mentioned on Bonkers. (Not many and for nothing significant was my guess. †)
Councillor Newton (Conservative, East Wickham) is the new Chairman of the renamed People Overview Scrutiny Committee, now called Communities. The previous Chairman Councillor James Hunt will be a hard act to follow but presumably his preference for transparency and honesty did not find favour with Teflon Tess.
I once came face to face with James on a rare shopping trip to Bexleyheath and was shaken warmly by the hand and he, along with Councillor Peter Reader, is the only Committee Chairman who has ever taken the trouble to greet me personally when attending a meeting. I have never understood why the others choose to encourage criticism.
It is pleasing to note that Councillor Newton joins James Hunt and Peter Reader in going out of her way to welcome members of the public to her meeting - and I was the only one there.
In return I am happy to report that the new Chairman made a confident and competent start in her new role. Her new Deputy is Councillor Richard Diment and whilst one might wonder about a wet behind the ears Councillor who is favoured by the aforesaid Teflon Terror so quickly, he too made a worthwhile contribution to the meeting.
The meeting took the now familiar format - Power Point presentations - five or six of them, I lost count.
The first one was by the Metropolitan Police, not from Bexleyheath as used to be the case but from Lewisham since the Mayor forced through the amalgamation of the three boroughs, the third being Greenwich. The three are collectively known as the Basic Command Unit (BCE). There are twelve across London.
Despite the obvious fears that a crime-ridden Lewisham might soak up most of the resources Acting Superintendent Andy Carter was able to put a much more positive spin on things.
The Superintendent said that far from Bexleyheath police station being the poor relation, half of all the officers would be based there and its custody suite is being reopened. Additionally a Safeguarding Hub would be established in Bexleyheath attending to Domestic Violence, Sexual Offences and and what appears to be the lazy policeman’s number one preoccupation, Hate Crime.
A Partnership Prevention Hub will deal with drug and alcohol problems and naughty words that might hurt on Social Media - like reporting on Councillors in trouble with the law presumably.
There are five such hubs or strands as the Superintendent also called them and details may be seen on Slide 3 of his Power Point presentation.
Officers have been issued with i-Pads and the aim is to assign one officer to those crimes which catch their attention and avoid the discontinuity that has been a feature of policing.
Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) asked about CCTV in Lewisham and Greenwich, Bexley’s lying derelict for most of the time as readers will know. The Superintendent acknowledged that Bexley alone presented “a challenge” and “the situation will have to be reviewed but there is a long way to go”.
Councillor Downing stuck his neck out further. He said “it would be quite easy [for the Bexley system] to bring in the other two boroughs. It is clearly superior”. Councillor Downing will be well aware that Siemens designed Bexley’s CCTV system to be multi-borough capable and hoped it might bring in revenue from elsewhere. It never did.
Superintendent Carter said that fact would be taken into account.
The Vice-Chairman said that since last May, Bexley’s wards are physically larger than most; will that be reflected in Neighbourhood Policing numbers? He was assured that it has been and the Superintendent would “keep an eye on it”.
Councillor Amaning (Labour, Thamesmead East) said that her ward was the largest one of all and asked about recruitment and retention of staff but the figures were not available.
Councillor Hunt (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked what might happen to police property, Marlowe House etc. Superintendent Carter said that things had gone quiet on that front because the closure of police stations is being Judicially Reviewed but he “was not aware of buildings other than police stations being closed”.
Councillor Camsey (Conservative, Crook Log) was concerned about knife crime and was told it would only be solved by community involvement. How that works when a police priority would appear to be alienating the public with their politically correct nonsense I have no idea.
Given that the police appear to be making very good use of Bexleyheath police station it seems likely that it was always an important part of their BCU planning and that Bexley Conservative’s pre-election foot stomping and banner waving was always the waste of time it appeared to be at the time.
† 18 times actually, far more than I would have guessed.