The first was on Tuesday and was hosted by my opponent at the next General Election, Labour MP Alan Whitehead. The meeting was to highlight the launch of his new guide to anti social behaviour and peoples' rights and the law. It was held at the Central Baptist Church in Devonshire Road. The book is very useful and can be downloaded on his website. The meeting was with all the different residents' associations in the west of the city and I went along with a number of councillor colleagues to hear peoples' concerns.
It was a rather negative meeting and I was struck at just how few ideas the Labour Government and Labour locally have to tackle crime. Unfortunately they are resorting to the old argument that simply more laws are needed. Since this government came to power there have been more new offences created than the number of days they have been in office! Yet crime is still a huge issue for local people and there are no positive solutions coming forward.
The second meeting was on Wednesday, at Freemantle Infant School in Mansion Road. This was a meeting with the local beat police, the fire and rescue service and all the new neighbourhood watches in the Freemantle and Shirley area.
It was an extremely positive meeting and I am really encouraged by the excellent work that the police are doing in the area. In recent months dozens of new neighbourhood watches have been set up. At the meeting we heard some of the things the police have been doing recently:
- Extra police patrols to tackle the problem of robberies along Shirley High Street.
- Cycling proficiency work in schools to tackle the problem of bicycles being ridden on the pavements.
- Trying to reduce speeding traffic along Hill Lane.
- Tackling crime hotspots in Albany Road and Shirley Towers.
- Recent arrests of drug dealers.
- Combined police/ PCSO / special constable patrols in the local parks and around the pubs at closing time.
Just as there was a stark contrast between my two meetings there is a stark contrast between Labour, who seem to have run out of steam and the Conservatives who on the other have a range of positive measures to make a real difference:
1. We are looking at having elected police sheriffs to bring democratic accountability to the police.
2. We will introduce honesty in sentencing so courts set a minimum and a maximum period of incarceration.
3. We will replace automatic release with earned release.
4. We will make community sentences tough and effective, and withdraw benefits for those who don’t attend.
5. We will enforce Drug Rehabilitation Requirements.
6. Offenders will compensate victims through a Victims’ Fund. Those serving custodial sentences will pay into the Fund through work in prison.
7. Prison and Rehabilitation Trusts and private sector prisons will be paid by results - with a premium awarded if the offender is not re convicted within two years.
8. We will accelerate the deportation of foreign national prisoners.
9. We will increase prison capacity by more than 5,000 places over and above Labour’s plans, to end overcrowding by 2016.
10. We will cut the paper work and bureaucracy which is tying the hands of police officers.
1. We are encouraging more Southampton people to sign up as special police constables to help patrol the city streets. We seeking Home Office approval allow us to scrap council tax for local people who sign up.
2. We are improving lighting in the city and will replace thousands of old street lights in Southampton in the next few years. We are also improving lighting in city centre parks as a priority.
3. We are investigating whether mobile wireless CCTV could be mounted on new street lights, so cameras can be installed in crime hotspots.
4. We are supporting the 101 anti social behaviour number after the Government withdrew its funding.
5. We are looking at how we can better organise the council's uniformed officers, city patrol and wardens and how to better co-ordinate activities with the police.
6. We are looking at opening hours and numbers of pubs and clubs in the city.
7. We have launched an after schools sports scheme to get more youngsters playing sports.
8. We are installing measures to protect areas of open space around the city from traveller incursions.
9. We are tackling the problem of dangerously parked and untaxed cars.
10. We are investing in anti crime measures on our estates including rolling out a new concierge system in the tower blocks.