Friday, July 25, 2014

Redbridge Parks Police
– The Contingency Plan


Many regular and long term readers of this site may recall the lengthy debate we had three years ago in the run-up to Redbridge Council’s decision to dispense with its own (highly respected and much loved by residents) Parks Police in favour of a three year, two-for-one BOGOF (buy one [police officer] get one [police officer] free) offer from the London Mayor which became the Redbridge Community Police Team.

Many of us at the time were looking beyond the then imminent London Mayor election in 2012 and the local council elections in 2014 and wondering what will happen when this time limited deal expires. And now the chickens are coming home to roost.

The deal expires this coming October so I put my name down to speak at Cabinet last Tuesday and ask what the arrangements will be beyond October. After all, any sensible person dispensing with a permanent arrangement in favour of a temporary arrangement will have thought about the long term and will have a contingency plan to cover it, wouldn’t they?

In the event, the Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement, Cllr Ross Hatfull, emailed me before the meeting with a statement:
"The contract for the Community Police Team is due to expire in October.

There is a clause in the contract where for a £16k one off additional payment it can be extended for 6 months on the same terms. I have asked the Council officers to take this extension which will run up to April next year.

In April we can no longer extend the contract and have to draw up a brand new contract with the Police. Other boroughs that have already done this process have been offered significantly worse terms by the Police such as the removal of the additional Police Sgt which we currently get for free.

I will be asking officers to draw up a full report as to the options after April and the report will go to Advisory Committee prior to April. I really appreciate the value of the Police team, but would want to make sure any future contract reflects the team delivering on the boroughs priorities, and does not involve us shoring up vacancies in the local police. But at the moment I can not make any guarantees after April, until we know the terms that are on offer from the Police".
Armed with this my question at Cabinet was: “Should the negotiations with the Police to continue this arrangement beyond next April prove to be unsuccessful, what is the contingency plan to continue to protect our parks and open spaces”.

In short, there isn’t one, and the option to revert to the previous arrangement whereby the Council directly employ their own Parks Police doesn’t seem a goer either as who would apply for the job given the way the previous lot were treated. We await the report from officers with interest.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

And now for something completely different – Area Forums

In the wake of the abolition of Area Committees here in sunny Redbridge the MP for Ilford North, Lee Scott (pictured right), has decided not to wait for the new Redbridge council administration to put their “Local Forums” in place and has published his plans to hold his own “Area Forums” for the Ilford North Parliamentary constituency.

There will be two “Areas” based on the old Area 3 & 4 Committees with the wards to the west tagged on. So we have Bridge, Fairlop, Fullwell and Hainault wards in one Area and Aldborough, Barkingside, Clayhall and Roding in the other Area.

Lee said:
“In the initial period, running to the end of this council year, the aim is to hold two meetings for each of the forums. Two local venues at each geographic end of the constituency would be selected.

These new Forums are a replacement for the abandoned Area Committees. We must do all that we can to encourage wide spread local involvement. Community groups, as well as individuals, would be able to make formal representations, give suggestions or ask questions. Each Forum would also be open to the local press.

The plan would be that each of the forums will be sponsored and have their own (modest) budgets that they could use to provide some support to local events and to cover any running costs”.
So we, at least in Ilford North, appear to be getting two lots of Forums. These above will be less than once a month; discounting August there are 8 months left of the municipal year and we can expect 4 meetings, so one every two months on average. And because these forums are confined to Ilford North the locations of the meetings are much more likely to be reasonably accessible to most of the residents. However, like the council proposals there are some vital logistics still to sort out, not least dates, times and venues for those of us who lead busy lives and like to plan our calendar some way ahead.

Then there is the format of the meetings, who attends and who gets to be Chair. There will be no formal requirement for any elected Redbridge Councillor to attend, although one could reasonably expect a 3-line whip on those who happen to be Conservatives. What the Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors make of this remains to be seen – may we live in interesting times.

Here’s Nat King Cole, "There may be trouble ahead ....."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Counting Butterflies and Moths

A request from Steve.

As I took part in the first national survey of the UK butterfly population (1993-2003), which ended up supplying the largest amount of raw data ever collected, I've been asked to encourage people to take part in a count for this year by Butterfly Conservation. Such data has been unique and successful in gauging things like climate impact, whereas before this, only sparse local data was available with an inconsistent method and only really useful for illustrating natural population crashes and demonstrating habitat loss or interference.

So, between now and Sunday 10th August it would be great if you would take part in this citizen science project. All you have to do is spend a 15 minute period on as many different days as you like (one is okay!) in a static location, recording how many of each different types you see. Then enter your result on the dedicated website which has all the information you need including a common species identification chart. There is also a free smartphone application to download. A nil return is still valuable!

Go to www.bigbutterflycount.org

I have an Observer's Book of British Butterflies from 1938 which includes about 120 species, nearly half of which have gone extinct in the UK in my meagre lifetime. That is the real impact of Climate Change and us living in an age of mass extinction. We need to know what's out there. Please take part in this.

Love Steve