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Tony Allen

Helping Ourselves In Time Of Austerity

Sun 9 Jan 2011

By Tony Allen

So we are into 2011 already, the Christmas decorations have come down, and it is getting back to normal, or is it? The new Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review has taken place, and announcements are coming out on a regular basis, some good, some not so good, about all aspects of our lives which we will all have to adjust to.

Teignbridge District Council recently sent out a questionnaire to town and parish councils about which of its 17 main activity areas members felt needed least protection from budget cuts. In this article, I’d just like to focus on one area which, not surprisingly, regular readers will know I feel strongly about, and that is our neighbourhood policing.

Cutting the policing budget...

It is quite clear that budgets are being cut within the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary. This will mean a loss of posts, both police officers and civilian staff. The Chief Constable has an unenviably difficult task deciding where these cuts will come, and which services will be most affected. Teignbridge likewise is considering whether to reduce its budget for the work carried out with partnering the police to help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

There is no doubt in my mind that our neighbourhood policing will be affected by these cutbacks, whether through reduced personnel or reductions in work shifts. Is there anything we can do to help out as responsible citizens? After all, it’s our own communities I’m talking about. I firmly believe we should all be involved in making sure these are as safe and environmentally friendly as possible, as the days of leaving everything totally to others, especially public authorities, could be drawing to a close for some considerable time.  

NHW supporting the police...

One important area where we can and do help the police, and indeed local authorities, is with Neighbourhood Watch (NHW). NHW was originally set up to help reduce crime through increasing awareness of what was going on in their local areas, and spotting potentially suspicious behaviour. It also encouraged residents to keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours and empty properties (e.g. during holidays), and in some cases have regular get-togethers and other social events. Obviously there is always a need for one or more residents to put themselves forward to lead their own scheme in the manner they feel to be best for them.

The police supporting NHW...

Key benefits for the neighbourhood police team are the way NHW’s visibility can discourage criminal activity, while providing an excellent channel for disseminating news of crime trends, urgent appeals for help where public involvement can be beneficial, and for giving advice to groups on methods of crime prevention. It is a two-way flow of information, because the feedback from residents on areas of concern are of value to the local police management team and their partners (e.g. local councils). 

Police budget cuts are already having an effect on NHW, because literature is no longer being printed on a regular basis. However, the use of IT has been advocated as a tool for reducing paperwork (and costs) within organisations for many years. Accessing NHW material, crime alerts and police reports on the internet and passing on to residents, either via emails or paper copies where they don’t have access to a computer, can get around this. This keeps the citizen in control, and does not leave matters completely down to police resources.  

Organising to beat the cuts...

Clearly there has to be some structure to NHW within a community to provide an interface for the neighbourhood policing team and the various schemes to be able to communicate with each other. This is why here in Bovey Tracey we have created our own NHW Forum, which is a loosely defined association of the NHW schemes within and around the town. The main co-ordinator for each scheme is its representative on the Forum. The Forum holds occasional meetings with guest speakers on topical crime-related subjects, and is actively supported by the neighbourhood policing team.

Local Council involvement...

Now I feel there is a key factor which can help the success of a NHW Forum, and that is the local council’s formal commitment to support it. As a Bovey Town Councillor, I have been nominated as the council’s representative on the Forum. This is good, because it means that via me the council is then involved and will provide locations for Forum meetings (the Town Hall or the council chamber) free-of-charge. This is important, because all of us in NHW are volunteers, and the schemes have no budgets as such. The Bovey Forum has no formal management and bureaucracy, and I currently facilitate its activities, although any of the co-ordinators could take on this rôle if they wished.  

I do believe this is also the way ahead for other parishes (like our near neighbours in Lustleigh, Moretonhampstead and Hennock/Chudleigh Knighton) where each council could nominate one of its number to be that council’s main interface with its NHW Forum, showing the commitment and involvement needed to help NHW flourish in these difficult times.

However, I’m not a keen supporter of a Teignbridge-wide NHW organisation, other than as an occasional platform for sharing issues across local NHW schemes. I believe it creates an additional layer of organisation that is not necessary and perhaps not affordable at this time. 

Taking responsibility for ourselves...

In Bovey Tracey there has been a marked interest in NHW recently, partly I feel because of the recession and a fear of an increase in crime levels. It seems that cutting budgets and reducing our neighbourhood policing capability at this time is the last thing we want or need.

What I am suggesting here is that all of us can respond to this situation ourselves, as described above. In practice, if residents want NHW schemes for their roads there should be nothing stopping them. The NHW Forum, backed by the local council’s support, and the involvement of the neighbourhood police team, can help get you started. Contact details are to be found elsewhere in this magazine.

Has NHW  always been an early example of The Big Society?...

 “The Big Society” is nothing new, because volunteers have been taking responsibilities within for their own communities for years. I feel NHW is one such activity, which can well serve as an example to others of how to go about it successfully when you have committed people who care about their communities and are prepared to do something about it.

The above approach to NHW through Town/Parish Forums with local council nominees actively involved is what I would recommend to both the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary and to Teignbridge District and Devon County Councils as the way ahead. It seems to work here in Bovey Tracey, and shows the positive impact that good neighbourhood policing and a strong NHW network has on our community. Despite budget cuts, let’s please try to keep it like that.



Other columns by Tony Allen

TONY ALLEN’S COLUMN “COMMUNITY MATTERS” - Tue 9 Nov 2021
TONY ALLEN’S COLUMN “COMMUNITY MATTERS” GETTING INVOLVED WITH YOUR LOCAL COUNCIL - Mon 2 Aug 2021
TONY ALLEN’S COLUMN “COMMUNITY MATTERS” BOVEY THANKS VOLUNTEERS & “LIFELINE” SHOPS - Mon 14 Jun 2021
TONY ALLEN’S COLUMN “COMMUNITY MATTERS” BREATHS OF FRESH AIR ALL AROUND - Tue 7 Jul 2020
TONY ALLEN’S COLUMN “COMMUNITY MATTERS” COMMUNITY COHESION………………… - Tue 11 Feb 2020
CLIMATE ACTION: WHERE DO YOU START?.......... - Mon 2 Dec 2019
WHAT’S BEEN GOING ON IN OUR LOCAL COUNCILS…? - Thu 1 Aug 2019
BOVEY TRACEY ACHIEVES “PLASTIC FREE” STATUS........... - Fri 3 May 2019
IDEAS & SUGGESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE........ - Thu 24 Jan 2019
COMMUNITY MATTERS - “PLASTIC FREE BOVEY”, RARE PRAISE, ELECTIONS - Thu 8 Nov 2018
Young people in the community - Thu 15 May 2014
Moving Bovey Tracey forward - Tue 4 Mar 2014
Is Bovey Tracey too shabby and run down to attract visitors? - Mon 9 Sep 2013
A public consultation should be just that - Mon 11 Mar 2013
Athletes, young people and rural watch - Tue 13 Nov 2012
Bovey Beats Most Of The Summer Weather - Wed 5 Sep 2012
What sort of Town do you want Bovey to be? - Sun 1 Jul 2012
Awards, Traffic, Policing & another Top Shop! - Thu 3 May 2012
GOOD NEWS, SPECULATION, AND MORE GOOD NEWS - Thu 5 Jan 2012
RUBBISH, SPEED, LIGHTS OUT, BADGERS and more! - Mon 7 Nov 2011
Newspapers, Tragedy, Cheques and MORE! - Sun 11 Sep 2011
Community Matters - Mon 11 Jul 2011
Growth of Neighbourhood Watch In Bovey Tracey - Tue 3 May 2011
Which would you rather have: A PC (Police Commissioner) OR Several PCs (Police Constables)? - Thu 10 Mar 2011
Security in the current Economic Climate - Thu 4 Nov 2010
Security Matters - Spelling it Out - Mon 6 Sep 2010
The Ultimate Deterrent or Not - Tue 6 Jul 2010
NHS Summary Care Records  Will Your Personal Health Information Be Secure? - Mon 3 May 2010
Social Networking - A risk or a good thing? - Sun 28 Feb 2010
Security Matters - Back to Basics! - Thu 3 Dec 2009
Security matters - are you being conned? - Wed 4 Nov 2009
Security matters - ID cards and hotel key cards - Wed 4 Nov 2009
Security matters - Personal security - Wed 4 Nov 2009
Security Matters - Who owns your identity? - Wed 4 Nov 2009
Security Matters - Victim of crime - need help? - Wed 4 Nov 2009


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