Every quarter there is a Neighbourhood Forum meeting open to all residents of St George to bring local issues to council officers and police. An action tracker is kept of the issues raised at the each meeting and a record kept of what has been done about them.
After a welcome and introduction from our chair for the evening, Philip Bird, champion of our Communications Subgroup, the first topic was “Celebration of Success”. Rob Acton-Campbell, Chair of the St George Neighbourhood Partnership, presented 4 leaders of successful projects helped by funding from the St George Neighbourhood Partnership.
1. A Celebration of Success
a) A play area for Troopers Hill Field – Susan Acton-Campbell
Local volunteer conservation group, Friends of Troopers Hill, were delighted to announce that work would start on building an £80,000 play area on Troopers Hill Field during the week starting 15th August. The project started in January 2015. Play in Troopers Hill Field had been identified as a priority by the St George Neighbourhood Partnership and they agreed, via a vote by local councillors, to allocate £15,000 towards the project. After extensive consultation Friends of Troopers Hill made successful grant applications to the Veolia Environment Trust for £23,750 and Suez Communities Trust for £50,000. The £15,000 was critical to accessing these two grants. Chair of Friends of Troopers Hill, Susan Acton-Campbell, announced that all would be welcome to the celebration event planned for when the play area opens, hopefully in October, but no later than November.
Questions were raised from the floor:
1) Q. Was there a plan to ban dogs from Troopers Hill?
A. Not as far as Friends of Troopers Hill were aware and they work very closely with the landowners, Bristol City Council. Friends of Troopers Hill would certainly not support such a proposal, if it were made.
2) Q. When would the consultation on the fence start?
A. Extensive consultation was carried out last year, there will be no further consultation. Results are on the Friends of Troopers Hill website
The area for under 5s will be fully fenced, as requested by dog walkers, parents and others responding to the consultation. The activity trail will not be fenced, as supported by the same audience.
3) Q. Why were comments against the new play area not reported?
A. They are reported in the results of the consultation on the Friends of Troopers Hill website*. 12 negative comments made, 482 responses were in favour.
*The consultation report can be found here. Appendix C gives samples for the comments made include a sample of the 12 negative comments made, 482 responses were in favour. www.troopers-hill.org.uk/play shows play area plans and links to the whole background of the project.
b) A play area and nature trail for Dundridge Park – Geoff Reeson
Chair of Friends of Dundridge Park shared the good news of a new play area, nature trail and wildlife area being built at Dundridge Park. Similarly to Troopers Hill Field, play had been identified as a priority for this space and the St George Neighbourhood Partnership allocated £15,000 towards the project. In addition £10,000 from the Partnership paid for a professional fundraiser to work with Friends of Dundridge Park and Meadow Vale Community Association.
Grants were successfully applied for from Suez Communities Trust, Cory Environmental Trust and Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme.
Geoff also reported how pleased he had been with the improvement of access to Dundridge by the replacement of a locking gate with a chicane, also funded by money from the St George Neighbourhood Partnership.
A path to the play area has already been built and work has started on the nature trail.
A single question was raised from the floor:
Q. Why do Bristol City Council make a charge for project management costs?
A. It is standard practice for Bristol City Council to make a charge when their staff are used to run a project that is outside those budgeted for by the council.
c) Meadow Vale Park and Community Centre – Lindsey Fuller
Lindsey Fuller, Head of Speedwell Nursery and Children’s Centre described plans for providing lighting for an existing Multi-Use Games Area, a play area is currently being built and a wild life area created. This has been achieve with more than £49,000 allocated by the St George Neighbourhood Partnership and numerous successful funding applications made by a professional fundraiser. Meadow Vale Park has also been recognised as a priority site for the St George Neighbourhood Partnership and funding made available to improve access to Parks has paid for a new path across Meadow Vale Park.
Lindsey shared that there wider plans to redevelop Meadow Vale Community Centre which adjacent to the park.
d) Speedwell Friends – Luci Gorell Barnes
Luci reported on a project supported by a St George Neighbourhood Partnership Wellbeing grant of £2,900 granted in December 2015.
This excellent project is fully reported here.
Luci was supported by Howa Suliman who had done much of the original clearing of the allotment site and told us how important the project had been for local families and building friendships and confidence.
Luci’s display at the meeting included solar dyed bunting, photos of the projects and packets of the seeds, printed in the languages of the participants of the project.
Examples of further successes were on display around the hall.
2. Introduction to the Consultation on the Police and Crime Plan for Avon and Somerset – Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner
Sue started her presentation by commenting on the previous presentation, emphasising the importance of play provision for children so they can be out learning how to make real friends and use their social skills rather than finding “friends” via internet contacts that might prove to be deceitful and exploitative. She also commented on the value of growing food and eating together.
She is one of only 3 Police and Crime Commissioners who are independent of any political party. She was pleased to be re-elected but saddened that she was the only woman among 7 candidates and that all candidates were white.
She praised the courage and commitment of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary, include police officers, Police Community Support Officers, the Special Constabulary and civilian staff.
She emphasised the importance of honesty, to report failures but to learn from them and to prevent repetition. She listed Bijan Ebrahimi as an example of where the police had failed.
To assist officers in their job she is looking at providing them with the best tools, with mobile technology. Body cameras will help with the collection of evidence and speed up procedures.
Greater diversity is needed within Avon and Somerset Police, they must relect the community they serve. Currently the level of representation of black and minority ethnic staff is under 3%.
128 PCs and 54 PCSOs will be recruited this year. Future recruitment depends on future levels of government funding.
Measures have been introduced to scrutinise performance. Stop and searches are in the process of being reviewed by scrutiny panels. Body cameras will be rolled out this year.
Sue believes tazer use will increase due to single crewing. Mistakes will happen. this will be the operational decision of the Chief Constable.
There is now an independent residents panel looking at complaints. Residents are invited to apply to become members of the panel. More information here.
Grants are available from the Commissioner’s Community Action Fund to tackle issues within local communities.
Within the Police and Crime Plan, setting priorities for the next 4 years, a focus is given on looking after the most vulnerable, an example given of the priority setting given would be that a mobile phone theft, while inconvenient for a fit, able bodied person could be life changing for someone with limited mobility whose only means of communication is that phone.
A focus is needed on cyber crime, this must be looked at nationally and internationally
Mental health nurses are now accompanying officers and the mentally ill are not put in cells but have an assigned ward where they will be cared for. If that ward is full they will be taken to a hospitals’s Accident and Emergency department.
The police are working with the children’s charity Barnado’s to address child exploitation. Children will not report exploitation often believing themselves to be loved and cared for. Working with Barnado’s to increase levels of trust it will sometimes take over a year for trust to be gained.
Sue wants children to grow up in safety and victims to have support.
She would like to tackle things in the “long grass” but she can only be as good as the level of information given to her. She encouraged the audience to contact her office directly with issues.
Anyone wishing to give their input on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s priorities can do so here.
Questions were taken from the floor:
1) Q. What is being done about 101 answering time?
A. 999 calls are answered in 6-10 seconds. More staff have been recruited to support 101 calls. 101 calls are answered in the first 60 seconds on average, then triaging can take this to 3.5 minutes. Response times are being monitored.
2) Q. Hillside Rd is shown as having no crime where crimes have been reported.
A. If after 6 weeks a crime does not appear on the national crime map contact Sue Mountstevens directly. Sue also said she would talk to the questioner during the break.
Sue commented that burglaries were down from 25,000 to 12,000 from 10 years ago. At the general election 11 years ago crime was in the top 3 priorities at the last election it was 11th. Sue believes this will go up again with cyber crime and child exploitation.
Comment from editor: Crime data can be searched via the website www.police.uk. Postcodes appear to be linked to beat areas so if a postcode is on a boundary of a beat, crimes might not appear that have been allocated to the adjoining beat. On testing the search with Hillside Rd postcodes no crimes appeared, when using a Clovelly Rd postcode crimes were displayed for Hillfield Rd. The link to the map showing the crimes is www.police.uk/avon-and-somerset/BE166/crime/. Alternatively just click the round circle with a dot in it on the top right of the map and crimes will than be shown for a 1 mile radius irrespective of beat boundaries.
3) Q. With funding coming from government for Avon and Somerset Police, how can the Police and Crime Commissioner be independent of government influence?
A. Avon and Somerset police is funded 2 thirds by government and 1 third from the council precept. The Police and Crime Commissioner campaign for election was not supported by that funding.
4) Q. 2 residents raised issues about particular incidents affecting them.
A. Sue talked to them both individually during the break
5) Q. Why can’t the pot of money for grants be sued for addressing staffing for 101 calls
A. The amount of grant money is small and delivers high levels of satisfaction. £700,000 is needed to fund 101 calls for the next 12 months. Diverting grant money to 101 would not deliver the same level of return on investment. Grants have covered gating, security cameras and many other small items, having a disproportionate impact on the problems facing the local community.
6) Q. Where does the 15 pence go charged for 101 calls.
A. BT – this was clarified after the meeting with:
How much does it cost to call 101?
Calls to 101 (from both landlines and mobile networks) cost 15 pence per call, no matter what time of day you call, or how long you are on the phone.
The 15p cost of the call goes to the telephony providers to cover the cost of carrying the calls. The police and government receive no money from calls to 101.
3. Local Police Priorities – Neighbourhood beat team – PC Matt Clement
Unfortunately Matt Clement had to attend a hit and run accident on the way to the meeting so was unable to bring any statistics or report to the meeting. This was a clear example of how priorities have to be set given the availability of police resources.
He covered the actions being taking at the Summerhill schools to address inconsiderate driving behaviour by parents. In term times PCSOs patrol at drop off and pickup time, details are taken of illegal parking. Prior to the start of term the owners of those vehicles will receive warning letters.
Near Air Balloon School an antisocial behaviour diary has been supplied to a local resident and this will be reviewed.
4. Bristol Energy – Michael Lloyd-Jones
Michael Lloyd-Jones started his presentation with a brief video.
Bristol Energy is wholly owned by Bristol City Council. Money will be reinvested in local communities.
The company has a great interest in community generated energy.
15 participants are wanted to trial smart meters in Bristol. Details are here.
You can follow Bristol Energy on social media. Their telephone number is 0808 281 222.
1) Q. Will Bristol Energy be dealing in petrol and diesel?
2) Is coming to this meeting taking an unfair advantage over competitors?
A. Bristol Energy is careful not to behave in an uncompetitive way and other energy companies could ask the Neighbourhood Partnership if they could present at Forums.
5. Discretionary Licensing – Jen Clark
Jen was supported by Anne Welsh and Amy Chick. Currently a 3 storey house rented by 5 or more people must have a licence. Discretionary licence is applied by the local council in areas where there are particular issues to do with rented property. This scheme does not apply to Housing Associations.
The scheme is being applied to the old St George West ward area.
Jen listed the actions taken in another area where the scheme had been implemented, Easton. 1,500 licences were expected. 1,160 premises are licensed in Easaton, 1,060 have been insplect. 184 landlords have been given informal improvement notices. 15 landlords have been given formal improvment notices.125 have had management regulations applied where tenants were not being dealt with correctly.
Prosections are underway over 4 unlicensed property and 3 cases where licensing conditions are not being met.
2 prosections went to court last week (week commencing 1st August) resulting in £38,000 in fines.
Discretionary licensing can be used to combat anti-social behavours. Management conditions are part of the licence. New tenants must have a clause in their rental agreement about anti-social behaviour. They can be evicted if that clause is broken.
Landlords must take reasonable steps to prevent illegal activity in their property and make 4-6 month inspections.
Examples were given of properties where properties were either sold and then improved or the current landlord addressed the problem.
1) Q. Won’t the improvements raise rent prices, which already high, beyond many people’s reach?
A. These are improvements to reach the most basic, acceptable level of rental accommodation. Yes, it may mean higher rental prices.
After this session the meeting move into the marketplace phase where people could talk to different representatives such the speakers, councillors, neighbourhood officers, volunteer groups and raise issues or questions.
Because sessions had overrun there was no roundup afterwards of the issues raised but these have now been summarised, anonymised and can be seen here.
We are delighted to say that thanks to a lot of local publicity ranging from posters to tweets and facebook postings at least 56 people attended the Forum, there may have been more who did not write their names on the attendance sheet. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word. We look forward to seeing you at the next one, do send your ideas for topics or speakers to firstname.lastname@example.org