Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Fresh Ideas? More like same Old Labour

Tomorrow Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is visiting Reading  in search of 'Fresh Ideas' to take back to the Labour Party.Ed Miliband is apparently on the hunt for 'Fresh Ideas' as he is currently staring at a blank sheet of paper. The website set up for this purpose has attracted less than 500 ideas so far.

News has reached me Ms Cooper will be visiting Coley Park in marginal Minster ward which Labour is fighting to hold at the local elections"where local neighbourhood wardens have just been cut and to discuss Thames Valley policing cuts".

This is total spin and  hypocrisy from Labour
As I blogged last November, the decision to review the Council's warden service was taken when Labour were in charge of the Council:
"Cabinet took the decision to redesign the service earlier this year following a review of neighbourhood services across housing and environment teams. At the time of taking the decision there was cross-party support for a more joined-up service which suggests current opposition to the changes by some Labour councillors is perhaps more redolent of political opportunism than anything else.
The decision to change the service was taken to deliver better value for money and better service for residents across the Borough - something we committed to doing in our local coaliton agreement with the Conservatives. And it is pretty clear from surveys carried out by the Council that services in some key areas need to improve in line with public expectation.

I understand the genuine concerns raised by residents, however, they should not see a deterioration in their neighbourhoods but hopefully an improvement through reduced anti-social behaviour and environmental problems. My colleagues and I will of course be monitoring the changes at local level to ensure this happens.

Last night, in presenting their petitions several residents raised the 'reassuring' presence of wardens on the estate. This is a testament to the hard work done by those individuals - and as a ward councillor I have seen this at close quarters in Hexham Road. We are grateful to the wardens, indeed to all Council staff who work hard to keep our estates and neighbourhoods safe.

However, it would be wrong to suggest that wardens alone are the only way in which community reassurance and support can be provided.
Since wardens were first introduced they have been joined and supported by a number of individuals from the Council, local Neighbourhood Police teams and the public carrying out walkabouts and other estate-based activities. So, estate inspections by Council officers and others at local level will continue, ensuring communities continue to be supported.

It's also worth pointing out that the changes followed a review of neighbourhood services that was initiated under the previous Labour administration. As with many policy areas across the Council's activities, Labour councillors have not indicated what they would have done in response to their own review. Nor, if they were to continue to provide these services how they would pay for it.

In addition to identifying duplication, the review found that there was a pressing need to focus resources more effectively on issues that are a priority to residents across the Borough: namely tackling anti-social behaviour and environmental issues."
The enhanced warden service is due to be relaunched soon and will have an increased focus on tackling antisocial behaviour and environmental crimes - in direct response to calls from residents for such a service.
The way in which local Labour councillors and now Shadow Cabinet members have manipulated community concern about anti-social behaviour in Coley for political gain is shameful. The purposes behind it are pretty obvious not to support local people but  to win votes at the local elections.
Remember only last week when given the chance local Labour councillor outlined no proposals at the Budget meeting to pay for wardens or anything else. So how would they pay for them?

Labour's record on tackling anti-social behaviour in Reading is not one to be proud of.  A year ago then Home Secretary visited marginal Reading West (see a pattern yet?) to talk about anti-social behaviour after local Labour councillors and MPs.

As I blogged at the time:
"I'm not sure how much Mr Johnson's visit will do for public confidence in the Labour Council or the Labour government, when it comes to anti-social behaviour, however, if that's what his visit was designed to do. The impression I get from talking to local residents right across Reading is that many people are fed up with the amount of anti-social behaviour they have to put up with in their area, and fed up with Labour's failure to tackle this problem effectively.

Local people want to see action to reduce anti-social behaviour, not words. All the evidence locally shows that local people think that tackling anti-social behaviour should be a high priority for the Council and the Police. The survey of South Reading residents carried out by Reading Borough Council last year found that residents ranked 'tackling anti-social behaviour' as the top local priority for action (after more Police and action on dog fouling).

An independent inspection of Reading Borough Council and its partners published last December highlighted the fact that fear of crime is higher than the national average. And as I reported on my ward blog last year, the continued failure of the Labour-run Council and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership to respond to community concerns relating to anti-social behaviour resulted in the Home Office announcing it would be sending an ASB Action Team to Reading - one of only 16 places singled out for extra help from government.

This is hardly a ringing endorsement of many years of Labour rule in Reading."

One month later Reading had a visit from Gordon Brown who was launching Labour's 'Safe and Confident Neighbourhoods strategy - remember that?

As I blogged at the time:
"These visits don't change public perception of crime or public perception of the Labour government. This is because people in Reading are sick of spin from Labour politicians on crime and anti-social behaviour, and after years of rhetoric and countless pieces of ineffective criminal justice legislation they want to see is action and they want a better response when they report crime."

Labour may be looking for fresh ideas but they are lagging behind the Coalition Government which recently launched crime maps and a review of anti-social behaviour powers to give communities more say in the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour.

Had Alistair Darling still been Chancellor Labour's massive cuts to budgets would be about to bite which would no doubt have forced councils and Police forces to reduce spending.

Locally Labour have no ideas about how to tackle anti-social behaviour or fund services paid for by Council tax-payers.
Ms Cooper has akso been badly briefed by her local Labour colleagues when it comes to Police numbers.

Last month Sara Thornton of Thames Valley Police confirmed there would be no cuts to frontline Police teams in Reading.

If Ms Cooper is indeed searching for fresh ideas to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour she should talk to the new administration running Reading, rather than repeating falsehoods and spin from her colleagues in Reading Labour Party which does nothing whatsoever to help the local community.

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