John's Jottings for February 2006

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

Closing-Down Sale

Remember how the Labour and Liberal Democrat members of Medway Council were going to sell off Rochester Airport and turn the site into a so-called Science Park? Remember how it turned out that all we would get would be warehousing/distribution centres instead, with no high-quality employment after all?

Well, they are at it again, but this time it's the LibDems taking the lead in trying to get the Community Safety Team closed down. Many residents in Rochester South and Horsted ward, and elsewhere in Medway, would be astounded if that happened.

They know, as do I, just how valuable the Street Team is. Indeed, there have been numerous situations when Team members have been all that has stood between Medway people (and their property) and disruptive and destructive behaviour. When the police are too stretched to cope with even regular and predictable trouble at known locations, the Street Team will patrol the area for as many days, weeks or months as necessary. Indeed, the team for this ward has recently won an award for their work, so well done to them!

This campaign to shut down the Community Safety Team has been the policy of both Labour and the LibDems for over a year now, and each of those parties has its own agenda on this, just as they had with the airport. As then, so what they wish to do now would deprive Medway residents of something they value highly (and I have ample testimony on file to illustrate that!) and need so very much in today's Britain.

So why are the other political parties so set on getting rid of this valuable asset?

Well, the LibDems have at least recognised the shortage of police officers on the beat, despite our Neighbourhood Officers, who cover very large areas. The LibDem idea is to put the (relatively small) saving into the police.

This, of course, does not make sense, at it is the Home Office, not local government, that pays for the police, with a contribution from the precept that the council collects for them (it is included with Council Tax bills, as is the Fire Service precept). Even if it were possible to fund extra police officers this way, the saving from closing down our Community Safety Team would probably finance two police officers for the whole of Medway. Not much of a deal for us!

Labour, on the other hand, are pushing their national government's Police Community Support Officers scheme. These PCSOs are actually somewhat similar to our Street Team in terms of cost, powers and abilities, but come under Kent Police, not Medway. Experience of existing regular police and PCSOs shows that they would be certain to be called to other parts of Kent frequently, and Medway would be left under-provided.

It is no secret that Kent Police have never (at least in the time I have lived around here) been exactly answerable to and responsive to the Medway community and their representatives, so again Labour's wheeze would result in a poorer service to Medway people than we have at present.

You know, it is my belief that there are some good brains in the other political parties; but overall they do tend to think one-dimensionally (as I have mentioned before) and are very much bogged down in their own dogma. This does reduce their capacity for rational thought, and they do tend to squander opportunities and waste perfectly good assets and other resources. It's rather like Khan in the second Star Trek movie: despite his intellect, he didn't think in sufficient dimensions to prevent Kirk coming up behind him from below and taking him out.

It's a useful lesson in its own context, but doubly useful when dealing with the kinds of issues we on the council face all the time. I am a very strong supporter of our Community Safety Team, and always make my position clear on behalf of Medway's residents whenever the topic comes up for discussion and debate. I can and always do think way beyond the single linear dimension that dogs the other parties' vision, and will never fall into the trap of avoidably losing a valuable resource that helps to keep our communities safe.

Next time: Leading by Example