Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Row over scrutiny of anti-social behaviour

Councillors criticise efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour in borough, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter Councillors responsible for [...]

Hero for Row over scrutiny of anti-social behaviour
Police officers and Waltham Forest Council staff in Chingford Green
By Waltham Forest Echo 17 February 2021

Councillors criticise efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour in borough, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

Councillors responsible for ensuring anti-social behaviour and crime are dealt with properly are not receiving enough information to do their job, a local councillor has claimed.

Some members of Waltham Forest Council’s communities scrutiny committee complained last week that anti-social behaviour (ASB) reports lacked substance, particularly one update that was less than 150 words long. 

Conservative committee member Mitchell Goldie said it is difficult for elected members to scrutinise how council and police resources were used if they were not kept informed.

Cllr Goldie and committee chair Karen Bellamy, a Labour councillor, also criticised police for not attending the meeting, although it was later explained that a “communication breakdown” had meant they weren’t invited.

Cllr Goldie noted it was “very hard to scrutinise when there’s limited detail” in reports provided to members, such as a three-paragraph update on ASB recorded since the start of December.

He said: “I would personally like to know the success rate of closure orders as there’s a couple in my ward that have gone to court. The details are quite slim.”

Speaking further to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Goldie added: “If we are looking at a community safety update and it’s four pages long, I think it’s very hard. Scrutiny meetings and reports are getting thinner and thinner.

“I would like to know how many closure orders are successful because we put taxpayers’ money into making representations to court. I know cases where the council is not very confident it’s going to win, so why waste money taking it forward?”

Cllr Goldie added that ‘Operation 20x20x20’, a joint operation between the council and police that launched last month, was “news to him” and said the information given to members “does not give any timelines” for the operation, which includes focusing resources at eight crime hotspots in the borough.

He added: “That’s quite significant, why was that not included in the report? Residents in the north of the borough already feel like resources are being sucked down south.”

The name ’20x20x20′ represents the borough’s 20 wards and 20 commitments from police to provide 20 solutions to residents’ key concerns. Speaking in December, Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Tucker explained that he hoped to return to the more local policing he remembered from when he joined the Metropolitan Police 35 years ago.

DCS Tucker said: “We do really well on big events but I want us to be judged on how we deal with the average person’s concerns.

“We lose [people’s] confidence when we do not deal with an allegation of crime properly. We have got to show that we actually listen. We might not be able to deal with some of these issues but we should be able to say we have tried.”

Operation 20x2x20 is currently being piloted in Leyton and Grove Green wards and will then be expanded to the rest of Waltham Forest.

Explaining why police officers had not attended last week’s committee meeting, Cllr Bellamy told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “If my officers are saying police are invited and police are saying they are not then there’s a breakdown somewhere… it happens.”

She added this “communication breakdown” was why she claimed at the meeting that members “are not getting the input from the police that the committee deserves” but that she no longer feels this way.

Responding to concerns raised, Superintendent Ian Brown said local police have a “strong partnership approach” with the council and a “history of successful joint working”.

He added: “This is not a meeting where we are requested to be present as a standing member, as it covers a range of ASB topics. 

“However, where topics are relevant to the police or we can add value, we attend upon invite by the participants.”