“No go areas” and holding power to account


nick alston

It is, I suspect, a mark of how far into the realms of political geekery I have slipped, that fair game as Friday evening entertainment is watching recordings of public meetings on YouTube. For those worrying for my sanity, I should point out that my evening has also included a trip to the library, and may yet feature a film or two.

The meeting, though, in question was a public meeting from last week with the Chief Constable of Essex Police Stephen Kavanagh, alongside the Police & Crime Commissioner for Essex Nick Alston, and his deputy Lindsay Whitehouse. Thrilling, eh?

I didn’t attend the meeting, but given that a crime and policing is — in my opinion — shaping up to be a big issue in Southend as budgets are cut away to nothing (a subject I mean to return to in future blogs) it is something I am happy to make time for.

The first thing I feel the need to touch on is something which Cllr Julian Ware-Lane, who attended in person, has already spoken of. Councillor Mike Assenheim is the Independent councillor for Shoeburyness and cabinet member for “Regulatory Services”. According to Mike himself, this means planning — despite all planning decisions being made by the Development Control committee.

The phrase which leaps out at me is this:

…in Southend, we’ve got lots of areas which at night are no-go areas for people…

I agree with Julian that this isn’t a helpful statement. I’m not sure there are any no go areas, but if there are then it is Cllr Assenheim’s responsibility to report those areas to the police. I have seen Labour councillors deliver on crime issues for local residents, so I know that it is effective. And Cllr Assenheim has been on the council for a good long whilelong enough to sort out any areas of Shoeburyness or Southend where he feels he cannot go after dark.

The second thing I would comment on is the Police & Crime Commissioner himself. Nick Alston comes across as a perfectly amiable man, but I can’t help but wonder what the point of him is. He touts his accountability, but it’s worth pointing out — especially at a time when certain political parties are talking about using ballot thresholds to restrict the right to strike — that he won the support of less than 5% of the electorate (4.75%, to be precise).

I’m not a fan of Police & Crime Commissioners, as regular readers will know. I don’t think they offer any benefit, and indeed at this meeting I had zero interest in what Nick had to say. Stephen Kavanagh had a lot to say, and whilst I don’t agree with him on everything, he brought a lot to the meeting. Nick Alston was the chair, essentially, but quite how that justifies the existence of his office yet eludes me.

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