By Councillor Alan Baldock / Justice / 0 Comments

Canterbury Labour Group has today written to Councillor Ben Fitter-Harding, the new Leader of Canterbury City Council demanding urgent clarification on the local authorities use of COVID-security marshalls.

On Thursday 9th September the Prime Minister announced his intention to introduce ‘COVID-secure marshalls’ to help enforce social distancing and public health guidance in our towns and cities. A spokesman for the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government subsequently clarified that local authorities were being ‘encouraged’ to hire marshalls, use volunteers or existing council employees with money from their own budgets for this role. Councillor Alan Baldock, Leader of the Labour Group has sought confirmation that Canterbury City Council has no plans to introduce such measures and will further promise not waste resources in exploring the viability of them going forward.

Whilst the rule of law has to be upheld, the government has already clarified that ‘COVID secure marshalls’ will not have the power to arrest, fine or disperse people in breach of COVID security laws. People breaching laws should be subject to the police and our own enforcement team who are trained, vetted and work in close partnership with the police. Senior Police Officers across the country have condemned the new marshalls with  Ken Marsh (chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation) likening these new roles to being more like “COVID wombles than marshalls” – front line officers we have spoken to are confused about their role and remit.

At a time where government guidance on the COVID crisis is continuing to evolve rapidly, we are worried that such ‘vigilante justice’ will put members of the public and the marshalls themselves at risk and stretch already depleted police resources. On a practical level the cost involved in vetting, training and deploying these individuals is also something which we cannot afford without central government funding.

In this letter Councillor Baldock said “public newspapers have already drawn attention to COVID-secure marshalls on the streets of Cornwall and Leeds. We call on you to publicly commit to Canterbury City Council not introducing such marshalls to our streets.”

Councillor Chris Cornell remarked “the actions of a small minority of people since lockdown ended have caused some to take to social media threatening to take the law into their own hands, but dispersing crowds safely and in a way which doesn’t further provoke violence is a skill our highly trained police have in spades and not something you get given with a high vis vest. We need to be swift in confirming that this will not be an approach condoned here.”

Councillor Mel Dawkins commented “this is just one more ridiculous initiative by the government to look like they are doing something but when actually they are doing nothing. It’s a total waste of money and resources that are already stretched by the lack of support from central government to local authorities”.

Since the announcement social media has roundly criticised the idea of these marshalls who were announced without local authorities having any prior warning. Newspaper articles have claimed the marshalls could be paid up to £30,000 for telling people to wear masks and advising people how to use one way systems. A full copy of the letter is available here.

By Councillor Chris Cornell / Justice / / 0 Comments

Local residents and councillors welcomed today’s news that Whitstable is to receive a new town constable following a six month campaign organised by Whitstable Labour Party. The campaign started in March 2019 with Councillor Chris Cornell writing to the Chief Inspector in Kent requesting the allocation of additional officers promised in the the uplift of council tax. In April an online petition was launched which now has in excess of 1400 signatures after being taken door to door during the May council election campaign.

In early September 2019 the three councillors met with Divisional Commander Nigel Brookes and Rosie Duffield MP to present the petition and again press the case for for extra officers (pictured above).

Today Kent Police have announced 56 additional town constables for Kent including 4 for Canterbury, 1 for Herne Bay and 1 for Whitstable.

Responding to the news, Councillor Val Kenny said “whilst a new town constable is welcome, they are only one person . We look forward to having a uniformed presence with whom local residents and ourselves can speak to directly and someone who can further co-ordinate and build on the work of our excellent PCSO’s, however we will continue to push for more police resources wherever we can”.

Whilst it is not clear when the new officers will start, PC Brookes did give assurances in September that recruitment had started. Labour councillors will be seeking clarification on their deployment this week.

Reflecting back on the campaign, Councillor Chris Cornell said “it is fantastic news that Kent Police have listened to the concerns of local residents and the rising tide of crime in our area. A true example that people powered campaigns work.

Since we were elected we have been inundated with people concerned about this issue. Since 2010 we’ve seen over £51m cut from government police funding for Kent – these two things are obviously linked.

Next week we we have planned walk-arounds with Kent Police in response to specific cases on Westmeads Rec, Cornwallis Circle and by West Beach Tennis Courts, we hope to be able to press them for further information then”.

By Councillor Chris Cornell / Justice / / 0 Comments

Social media has been raging recently with crime stories in Whitstable. Local Conservative councillors have responded by unfairly criticising serving officers and describing them as no better than cardboard policemen.

Instead of complaining, Labour candidate for Gorrell, Chris Cornell, has written to the Chief Constable Alan Pughsley asking him to assign a new Town Constable to Whitstable as part of the roll out of 90 new front line officers paid for by the recent increase in our council tax. Read his letter below.

Dear Chief Inspector

I, like many residents of Whitstable, welcomed the recent decision by the Police & Crime Panel on the 7th February to provide additional funding to local policing decisions in the context of substantial under investment in the last few years. Whitstable lost its High Street Police Station in September 2012 and, since this time, fear of crime or anti-social behaviour has notably increased, particularly online.

In the twelve months leading up to the closure of our police station, 1,947 crimes were committed in our area. Last year over the same period we recorded 2,910. That’s a staggering 49% increase and substantially above the rate of increase across the county during this period (11%).

Whilst we understand that crime across the whole county is increasing and resources remain tight, we believe a town of over 30,000 residents deserves a dedicated police resource, particularly when it has a higher per capita crime rate than nearby Herne Bay whose police station responds to 999 calls in our area.

As such I’m writing to formally request you consider our town for a new town centre Constable to increase the police presence and improve co-ordination of services across our town. With additional funding identified for 90 extra community police officers, a new town centre Constable for Whitstable is affordable and would go a long way to providing a ‘visible reassurance’ to visitors and residents of our town.

It is clear from Met Commissioner Dick’s recent comments that police numbers have a direct impact on the amount of crime, particularly violent crime. We believe a new town centre Constable could compliment the excellent work of local PCSOs and prove an additional resource to tackle shoplifting from repeat offenders, the rise in threatening or intimidating behaviour, particularly during school holidays, as well as anti-social behaviour on our beach at night. The number of licensed premises in our town is increasing whilst volunteer ‘‘street pastors’ are the only roaming presence in our town on busy nights out.

I would appreciate a response to my letter.

Yours truly,

Chris Cornell