collapse of public accountability

I have just received an email from the chair of the Tower Hamlets Safer Neighbourhood Board (SNB) asking me to meet him for coffee to see if I can be of use. He copied in 3 serving police officers at the Met too.

I refused. It is abhorrent to think that one person can decide who gets the local voluntary positions. That is not democratic and there is no accountability.

There is now a collapse of democracy evident so far as the voluntary sector is concerned.

I used to be the chair of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association. That was a post created out of a network of elected local Neighbourhood Watch panels, who democratically elected the chair of the local Association, which in turn worked in partnership with the local Metropolitan Police.

The then Mayors Office for Policing in Crime (MOPAC) funded the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association.

When my daughter became a successfull performance athlete in her sport, I needed to spend a lot more time to bring her to training sessions, starting at 6am, ending at 9pm and in between there was schooling.

I had a good relationship with local Safer Neighbourhood Teams and Neighbourhood Watch was set up through the SNT officers verifying the residents who registered as Neighbourhod Watches. I helped establish over 100 Neighbourhood Watches in Tower Hamlets.

Now my daughter has grown older and no longer needs as much help to get to and from places and I have more time to commit to the community again.

Unfortunately my successor in Tower Hamlets dissolved the Association. A new system called OWL was established, which is in fact just a communication system that works one-way. The police use it now to communicate with registered users only to give information on current situations and distribute news letters and invites to events.

I have been in communications with the national Neighbourhood Watch Network and attended one of their seminars. The former London Neighbourhood Watch Association has also been dissolved and there is no infrastructure left as it was previously.

Local people now often use WhatsApp to communicate among themselves, which is quite effective. Meetings with police are held via the SNT network and take place 4 times per year.

The SNT panels have a representative with the local Safer Neighbourhood Board.

Very strange

Yesterday I received a thick envelope in the post. Upon opening it, I found it contained an invitation from the Co-operative Party to join them.

Looking up their website, I was attracted to their Broadband and mobile phone prices but noticed that our contract still goes till next year.

So I read that booklet, they included, which sounded good and knowing that my family in Germany always had a Co-operative in their village, which all the local farmers used for banking I was tempted to be impressed.

Then I read the membership procedure on their website. The Co-operative Party is strongly connected to Labour. Labour refused my membership application some years ago, just after I had a attended the local Jewish Synagoge for a multi-faith service and we are members of a swimming club in Stoke Newington.

Strangely enough, even now, here in Tower Hamlets, I cannot even become a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator for my local ward, when years ago I had been the Chair of the Neighbourhood Watch Assocation, working closely with local police in this borough.

How things change. Local law enforcement seems to be strongly affiliated with the local Labour Party.

Slash, bang, whallop

Here we have it, Boris Johnson, shows how tough he is on crime and wants to build 10.000 more prison places and increase stop and search.

We are going towards a classical double-sided society. The underlings, living in prison cells and the good people living in houses/flats.

In the old days we could see the two-way society by the way pubs were built with two entrances for the poor and the rich. The public and saloon bars.

Boris Johnson now wants to create a new society whereby everybody just gets locked up, out of the way and that creates the internment society.

Gone has the community cohesion model, the trying to build civil societies who live together in peace and harmony.

I am not against stop and search and I am not against re-introducing the 20.000 police officers that were cut from the budget but recruiting masses of police officers quickly, doesn’t exactly increase the quality control of officer that is coming to our beats.

Yet stop and search done on an aggressively large scale, can seriously push mentally instable people over the edge and we may be walking towards a new age of riots.

Whilst the new government bemoans a break-down in civil society here in Tower Hamlets all Neighbourhood Watch signs were taken down from lamp posts. Those signs were always

  • an expression of anti-crime sentiment,
  • deterrents for criminals and
  • assurance for residents.

Why remove those signs, when they are simply a positive influence on the community? And whilst removing Neighbourhood Watch signs, which always introduced a better feeling of community spirit and increased attempts of community cohesion and simply replace all by a quick lock up and shut up policy?

It seems we are trending towards the Chinese model of building internmnet centres for re-education, and assisted living.

It is totally amazing that the government suddenly can find the funds to build 10.000 new prison places but is unable to build council housing in the same scale.

Having lives before politics

I am astounded to read that

  • Michael Gove took Cocaine
  • Rory Stewart smoked Opium
  • Jeremy Hunt had a Cannabis Lassi
  • Boris Johnson snorted cocaine and smoked drugs as teenager

Although these events are kind of ancient, e.g. they have been described by

Mr Gove who told the Mail: “I think all politicians have lives before politics. Certainly when I was working as a journalist I didn’t imagine I would go into politics or public service.”

I think that is the source of the problem of our increased drug culture in Britain, that taking them is seen as having a life.

On the front line, living in Tower Hamlets, a borough that has a high drug dealing problem, we find that it’s the social users, the ones that have jobs and earn enough money to consume drugs, have a substantive responsibility towards the drug dealing problem. If they wouldn’t buy the drugs, the dealers would have less reason to sell.

I can only hope that people are starting to realise that it would be better for all of us not to take any class A, B, or C drugs whether in politics or not.

Tower Hamlets Council is currently  conducting a substance misuse strategy survey on how to best combat drug use and how to educate people about it. They suggest that care leavers and high risk groups like pupils who have been excluded from schools should be educated about the dangers. Yet, the council seems to forget that it is those established high earners and middle class university graduates that also need educating.

Drugs are very common these days and it is definitely not easy to say no.

Yet if a pupil in a school these days would be caught out in any way with drugs whatsoever, they would be expelled and had little chance to ever enter a high-profile political post.  It doesn’t help to play down the drug taking of major politicians and put it down to life before politics.

What should happen is that children who nowadays get themselves in trouble whilst in school should not be expelled but helped instead so that they have a future equally as those politicians who now admit their failures once they had a career.

It is more than cynical that Michael Gove feels fit to admit his drug taking when he used to be Minister for Education who fell through the net.

Perhaps also our alcohol drinking culture should be called into question as this also has severe health implications both on our minds and on our bodies.

But the moral of the story is though that nobody is perfect after all.

 

Back to reality

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Johanna Kaschke a judge at London Swimming Regional Champs

Just decided to air this blog again, after I had been hiding it for years because of the shame of losing this libel trial. But history is what it is and we just have to live with it. Apparently we are now being defined by our online history and seeing that employers now choose employees by their public profile, I can well now understand that it is absolutely hopeless for me to ever get a well paid job.

What has happened so far?

I am a pensior now and I volunteer a lot to keep busy. I volunteer with

  • my local community centre
  • my local Safer Neighbourhood team and Neighbourhood Watch
  • for British Swimming at competitions as a swimming judge/starter

I am not active in politics at all. It is just amazing how small local activities of a female to do with political parties or interest groups get blown out of all proportions. Does it have to do with power-sharing?

Just having watched Dragon’s Den this week, there is now an online business that offers to clean up people’s public internet profile for a yearly membership of £70, so that it is easier to get the well paid job.

I think I will pass on that and allow the people who so completely and utterly bullied me online to live with their own conscience.

In the meantime, after having left the Conservative Party and been politically abstinent for years, I tried to re-join the Labour Party but was refused membership by my local association apparently just a year after I applied, apparently when I posted a picture of  being at a Jewish synagoge durinng a multi-faith celebration of the yearly Holocaust commemoration, which also included Councillor Islam for Bethnal Green. I declined an inviation to appeal the refusal.

Somehow I have the feeling I just don’t fit into political parties and will give that a miss in future.

 

John Biggs warns that cuts reduce the quality of policing

Sergeants are about to be removed from local SNT teams in London, that is if Boris Johnson approves suggested changes to policing structures to facilitate £500 million worth of savings by 2015.

That could mean that Police Inspectors may lead 4 teams instead of each or two teams having 1 Sergeant.

What is however also in the pipeline, is that Neighbourhood Watch teams get more regular meetings with SNT teams, who then exchange statistics and discuss concerns. That is a huge improvement to the previous 3-monthly meetings for SNT panel members, who not necessarily were also Neighbourhood Watch coordinators.

That is the way to go to ensure better quality and to monitor and question the quality of policing, it is to become a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator to be able to discuss local issues with police every 4 weeks in either formal or informal meetings. Police will have no choice but to determine their priorities according to resident’s and businesses input.

People always must try and make the best of a situation and the best method to ensure the best possible policing in London is to be a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator. I personally spent the last 5 years developing Neighbourhood Watch in Tower Hamlets for example, having worked closely with an Inspector for the last 1 1/2 years and I personally can recommend this setting,

But of course the great question that always arises, when are people able to meet and fit in with police shifts.

Motives of rioters

The composition of the rioters puts serious doubts on any suggestions that this could have anything to do with political aims or a classical class-war or an attempted revolution to overthrow the government.  3/4 of the rioters had a previous conviction with an average of 15 offences. Those are horrendous figures that also explain why the rioters showed little care for life.

That simply puts the connection of the shooting of one suspected drug dealer being bemoaned by a load of criminals in a new perspective. Though this does not excuse the action of the CO19 unit for shooting their target who does not seemed to have had a weapon. It is not an acceptable police tactic to shoot a suspected criminal, provoke other criminals to riot so that they can all be locked up in one swoop.  Even though that might not have been the intended way of action but that is how it went.

I could not say that all social housing estates are populated by criminals. Our housing estate is almost 50% owned and we have an active TRA and also a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. But that is community inspired.

Yet the biggest weakness of our neighbourhood policing strategy is that it is policing on demand. So if you get the criminal element taking over a community they do not want to volunteer on either Neighbourhood Watches or SNT panels. they would not want to  notify the police of wrong-doing and they would not contribute to the statistics that show that there is something wrong and police involvement is needed.

Well or course the new housing policies might force people to move more often but that can have the opposite effect and unsettle already fragile communities even more because in such communities it is a long-term effort to achieve social conscience and positive change and it often works only if people remain where they are so that they can build on existing social relationships.

Could Mrs May convince the Superintendents

I watched the latter part of the speech on the BBC life. The Officers clapped at the end but the questions were not transmitted, which I thought was unfortunate. I would like to know what the officers had asked Mrs May who advocated savings on policing and referred the police to part-funding from the Councils. That is what concerns me because it talks about what policing looks like on the ground in each neighbourhood.

In most affluent areas the Neighbourhood Watches can gain a lot of self-policing but they have got the money to finance themselves. In poor areas like  Tower Hamlets funding and regulations means that only housing service providers are under a direct duty to hold residents participation groups, which are not directly linked in with the police. My landlord has gotten such a group but it is impossible to get on it.

I have heard of residents who were bothered by youth for years, they worked with the landlord without any effect because the police were not directly involved.

On the other hand we have the SNT panels who hand-pick people to participate on meetings, which decide what the policing priorities are. They also have open meetings, which are sparsely attended and often do not lead to more communal activity in terms of Neighbourhood Watches.

In the end it has all to do with funding and having the resources to run a Neighbourhood Watch but the funding is not provided by anyone here in Tower Hamlets. I looked at the http://www.ourwatch.org.uk website, put in my postcode and could find around 50 Neighbourhood Watches in a 10-mile radius and 3 were in Tower Hamlets. There were many in Hackney and the southern and eastern direction but not in Tower Hamlets.

It seems strange to me that no more resources are being channeled into this directly. The council refers people to SNT and SNT gives you forms to start a scheme but at most will print you a few black and white leaflets to distributes and that is all the help you can get. All other forms of support only come via the council and housing funded residents groups who have no direct link to the police. Police may attend their meetings but they do not have to and usually the kind of people who are most willing to preserve their nice neighbourhoods do not attend those public meetings a lot. There is this natural curiosity between tenants and leaseholder over cost of maintenance of estates in those meetings. Whilst in police and law and order meetings all people have to worry about is the ASB and policing, which does not lumber anybody directly with costs and that does take the strain out of meetings.

Mrs May recommended large savings and I wondered how they are going to be achieved in any case if the policing methods themselves are very expensive. The way the riots were policed was very expensive. Because the rioters were allowed to riot as long as most of them were arrested. Whilst had water cannons been used to disperse them early not so much damage would occur and burning buildings would have been put out early. But then again if riots happen sporadically in various places it is not easy to get a water-canon there quickly. And are there enough water canons around to deal with the problem.

It is to be seen what is most desirable to quickly quench any up-risings or not to allow dissatisfaction to take place to this extend. The riot had to do with the policing methods of armed gangsters or presumably armed gangsters and the quick finger on the trigger philosophy and that is a discussion that could be held at Neighbourhood Watch meetings and brought to the SNT to challenge the police on how quickly they press the trigger and how good their intelligence is before they do.

There Neighbourhood Watches are an essential part of the social fibre and neighbourhood watches often know the locals and can bring valuable contributions to the policing of an area if they are established enough. It could save the police and the tax-payers ultimately loads of money to have well-established Neighbourhood Watches but bizarrely in Tower Hamlets the police does not want to finance them and the council does not want to finance them.

The EDL demos saw stewards provided by an Islamic institute but that was only for that part of the population and it is a pretty divisive strategy to rely on support from certain religious groups alone. There must be some uniformity in all efforts to guarantee equality and equal representation of all races, creeds and colours in all organisations to do with the population that is represented in them.

I really hope that I can convince the council leaders and police commanders of Tower Hamlets that funding is badly needed to strengthen Neighbourhood Watch in Tower Hamlets and that the government coughs up the funds.

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