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Why we must focus on hate crime in Sussex

As reported by the Bexhill Observer on Friday, recorded hate crime has risen by a quarter in Sussex over the past year. During the period April 2015 to March 2016, the total number of recorded crimes rose from 1352 in 2014/15 to 1728 in 2015/16, an increase of 28%.

This follows another large increase, in the previous year, of 34%.

The number of non-crime hate incidents also rose during the same period, from 447 in 2014/15 to 502 in 2015/16 – an increase of 12%.

Reports break down the results as follows:

· Disability 185 (up from 106 in the 2014/15 period)

· Race 1163 (up from 961)

· Religion 133 (up from 106)

· Sexual orientation 304 (up from 230)

· Transgender 40 (up from 28)

These are shocking figures but, despite the rise, police have said they are encouraged. They say this shows better reporting on the part of the police, and a greater willingness for victims to come forward and get the help they need. It certainly does prove that hate crime should be a top priority for a PCC in Sussex.

It follows news from earlier this year that reported a 37% spike in race hate crimes on British railway networks, and news from late last year reporting an 18% rise in hate crimes across England and Wales.

As PCC, I intend to put a great deal of focus on tackling this issue in Sussex. While it is encouraging that awareness and police reporting is improving, these figures show there is a worrying problem in our communities. I will make sure we are tackling the root causes of hate crime, as well as the effects. That means working with charities and support networks to build awareness of hate crime, challenge the prejudices that lead to these offences, and support victims in the most effective way possible.

I want to be part of a community where everyone, regardless of disability, race, religion or gender identification, feels safe and secure in their homes and on our streets.

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What is the Sussex PCC and why should I vote?

If you feel in the dark about the upcoming Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (Sussex PCC) elections, you’re not alone. Only 15% of the electorate voted in Sussex in the 2012 elections, and it was even less in some areas.

That’s not because people don’t care about their local police force. But many people are simply unsure of what they’re voting for, or how their vote will actually affect the way police work in their community. The Green Party wants to change that – we want to show people they have a democratic vote, and they can use it to make things better.

What is the Sussex PCC?

In 2012, the government introduced local Police and Crime Commissioner post, to replace the existing Police Authority system. Each elected  PCC is now in charge of:

  1. Building the vision for policing in the community they serve. They create a Police and Crime Plan, which allows them to make a strategy and set objectives.
  2. Setting the budget, which allows them to prioritise the areas that need more money, and do away with any wasteful spending.
  3. Appointing a Chief Constable, and holding him/her to account for delivering a proper service.
  4. Making the police answerable to communities they serve. If you feel like your police service is doing a poor job, you can vote for a new PCC and make things change.

Why should I vote Green?

It’s no secret that, over the past six years, the government has been slashing the budgets of public services and selling them off to private companies. In Sussex there have been millions of pounds worth of cuts to policing, and at the end of last year £56m more cuts were announced, with up to 1000 jobs to be axed.

Unsurprisingly, that coincides with rising crime rates in the community. Recorded crime in Sussex (excluding fraud) rose by 7.9% over the last year, and over the past six years fell by half as much as it did in the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, Katy Bourne earns £85,000, and with a team of staff her office’s total wages last year were £809,297, including £71,208 for her Head of Public Engagement and Communications and £84,642 for her Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer. Overall her office costs, including those salaries, was £1.37 million last year – despite the fact that she promised to cut costs in 2012.

It’s clear that there are major issues facing Sussex. That’s why I will be fighting tirelessly against the government cuts and privatisation, and against unnecessary spending that takes money away from public services. I will also be fighting for:

1) A police service, not a police force.

It’s clear that homelessness and drugs are growing problems in Sussex. I want to see a police service that doesn’t aim to criminalise and marginalise our most vulnerable people, but finds ways to support and help them. Arresting or fining homeless people is not only inhumane, it simply doesn’t work.

2) Honest, evidence-based policing

I will encourage the use of diversion programmes to help people away from re-offending. I will expand restorative justice programmes so offenders can face the consequences of their crimes.

3) Greater focus on hate crime and violent crime

Racism, LGBT and disability abuse, and domestic violence are major issues that do not get the attention they deserve. I will create a strategy and a budget that puts resources where they are needed most.

We want to see a much bigger turnout in the 5th May election. By voting, you will be strengthening our democracy. By voting Green, you will be changing our police service for the better.

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A Better Plan for Worthing: Supporting Our Town Centre Shopping Economy

With Worthing’s town centre suffering, like so many others, with the closure of HMV, Jessops and Blockbusters, the County Councillor for the town centre area, James Doyle, is calling for joint action on an immediate plan to support the retail heart of the town.

Image

James Doyle in Worthing Town Centre: bringing bikes to the heart of the town helps people shop cheaper, quicker and greener.

 ‘Both the County and Borough Councils, along with the Town Centre Initiative (TCI), need to engage quickly with the retailers in Worthing’s main shopping area, and work together to ensure that Worthing can ride out these adverse conditions and come out ahead of its rivals. I’m proposing a four-point plan of action:

  1. Enhance the street environment: improve the paving in Montague Street, make the crossing of Crescent Road into the ‘West End’ more pedestrian-friendly, and look at shared use in the West End. The County Council has already agreed to look at some of these points, and consultation on the Crescent Road crossing should take place soon, I hope this will be only the first step in an ongoing programme of improvements.
  2. Set up a virtual High Street for Worthing: the Borough Council and TCI need to develop a website and smartphone app to bring all of Worthing’s shops together, developing a stronger appeal for shoppers and allowing cross-promotion of offers and discounts which would be usable on a customer’s next actual shopping trip into Worthing. Who knows, we could even promote discounts on the car parks!
  3. Support Independent Traders: concentrate the work of organisations that offer business training, advice and support around the independent traders who make our town centre unique; Worthing is at the mercy of chains, but we can encourage those traders, like Type 40 Toys in Montague Street, who bring in visitors from far and wide.
  4. Act on Empty Shops: one fifth of Worthing’s empty shops have been empty for over two years; and rents have not been lowered in that time. The Borough Council and TCI need to call commercial landlords to account for their passive sabotage of Worthing’s economy, and ask why they are unwilling to drop rents to get shops open again. The council should name and shame those landlords who are not doing enough. One of the UK’s leading experts on empty shops, Dan Thompson, lives in Worthing and is a passionate advocate for the local economy; why is the Borough Council not using his expertise and advice?

‘These points may not solve all the problems of Worthing’s retail sector, but I hope that they will be a starting point. We cannot stand idly by while a vital part of our economy withers away for lack of support.’

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West Sussex County Councillors on Twitter

Following on from last week’s post which included a list of Worthing Borough Councillors on twitter, here is the equivalent list for West Sussex County Council.

Not quite so extensive, with only 17 of 71 councillors apparently on Twitter – and four of those were listed last week, being members at both County Hall and Town Hall.

Councillor Twitter name Followers
Lionel Barnard @lionelbarnard 20
Liz Bennett @lizzieannie 109
Heidi Brunsdon @heidibrunsdon 29
James Doyle @cllrjamesdoyle 240
Christine Field @cmfsussex 10
Louise Goldsmith @goldsmithlouise 142
Bob Lanzer @IO2F3 11
Simon McDougall @mcdougallsimon 17
Morwen Millson @morwenm 3
Francis Oppler @francisoppler 4
Chris Oxlade @chrisoxlade 834
Alan Rice @alanrice83 245
Brenda Smith @LabLangleyGrn 17
Bob Smytherman @bsmytherman 1775
Graham Tyler @bigggge 4
Nicky Waight @nicolawaight 36
Steve Waight @steve_waight 199

Worthing Borough Councillor Mike Donin is now also on twitter, @michaeldonin.

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The NeverSeconds School Meal Blog Ban – A Letter to Argyll & Bute Council

(For the original news story, see here: http://bbc.in/L02AS5)

My letter to Argyll & Bute Council (enquiries@argyll-bute.gov.uk) and the council leader (dick.walsh@argyll-bute.gov.uk)

Dear Argyll & Bute Council,and council leader Cllr Dick Walsh

I am a county councillor here in West Sussex, and a former mayor of Worthing.

When I first heard of the NeverSeconds blog, I was delighted to see a school child actively engaging with the process of education and politics – I’m sure that, like me, you often tell people that everything around us is politics – I’ve even used school meals as an example in the past!

I was appalled to see today that your council have taken the decision to ban Martha from taking photos of school meals.

Firstly, you have taken a huge step to discourage Martha, and children like her not just in Argyll & Bute, but all over the country, from engaging in political discussion – you have made them feel worthless.
Secondly, you have taken a hugely illiberal and authoritarian stance, acting in an overbearing and patronising way towards a nine year old girl.
Thirdly, you have shown, or at least given the impression, that you are afraid of the results of her blog and project.  You are dealing with the messenger not the message: if the school meals are, in your view, satisfactory, what have you to be worried about?  And if they are not ok, why are you not taking action to make sure your schoolchildren get decent nutrition at school, and instead trying to attack and gag someone who was commenting about the problem?

Please remove the ban on Martha Payne’s blog, and let’s hear from you immediately about what you are going to do about the real problem.

Regards

James Doyle
West Sussex County Councillor, Worthing Pier Division

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This Week at West Sussex County Council (11th-17th June 2012)

Committee Meetings:

 

June 12th Rights of Way Committee

2.15 p.m.; County Hall

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/MWwVBI

 

June 12th Joint Eastern Arun Area Committee

7.00 p.m.; Manor House, Church Street, Littlehampton, BN17 5EW

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/Lfe0wi

 

June 13th Children & Young People’s Services Committee

10.30 a.m.; County Hall

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/Ka79rO

 

June 14th North Mid Sussex County Local Committee

7.00 p.m.; Glen Vue, Railway Approach, East Grinstead

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/KjHXQQ

 

Forward Plan Decisions (June-September FP) by Cabinet/Cabinet Member

Full forward plan available here: http://bit.ly/JwqAuv

[Note: WSCC plans decisions by month; I’ve decided to change how I put these on the blog, as it gets a bit repetitive with decisions for a month listed every week, and no indication of when they’ll be decided. I shall list decisions outstanding from the previous month, plus decisions made during the past week]

 

Leader

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Communities, Environment & Enterprise

Outstanding from May:

Chichester Harbour AONB Memorandum of Agreement

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Children & Families

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

Urgent Action – Troubled Families Initiative: made 6/6; call-in deadline 15/6

 

Cabinet Member for Education & Schools

Outstanding from May:

Extension of Education Provision for 14-19 year olds in Area A Special Schools

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Health & Adults’ Services

Outstanding from May:

Preparing for an Ageing Population

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport

Outstanding from May:

Residents Parking Scheme for Pound Hill Crawley

Review of on-street parking charges

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Public Protection

Decisions made last week:

Future Fire Control and Mobilising arrangements for West Sussex County Council Fire & Rescue Service: made 7/6; call-in deadline 16/6

A joint control room is to be set up for West Sussex and East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service. The control room will be sited in Haywards Heath.

 

Notes

* Recurs every month

Joint decision between two or more cabinet members

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This Week at Worthing Borough Council (11th-17th June 2012)

Committee Meetings:

 

June 12th Joint Oversee & Scrutiny Committee

6.30 p.m.; Civic Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/MmOF3f

 

Council Leaders Interview

The council leaders for Worthing (Cllr Paul Yallop) and Adur (Cllr Neil Parkin) will be jointly interviewed by the scrutiny committee members on their priorities for the coming year.

The vision and priorities for the councils are included as an appendix to the report for this item. The vision consists of four bullet points, of which numbers 1 and 3 are process-oriented and about the internal working of the council(s), number 2 is again process-oriented, but with external partners, and number 4 is so vague and nebulous as to be meaningless – it’s worth quoting in full, really: ‘Developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship’ – how do you measure achievement of that? Not a single goal for something that will improve the town or the life of its people.

Similarly for the priorities: there are twenty-seven points, virtually of all of which are about maintaining the current levels and standards, keeping costs low, or supporting worthy but nebulous activities with external partners.

It shows a real poverty of vision and ambition when your top environmental priority is to keep collecting rubbish and recycling (no mention of improving recycling rates); your top economic aim is to support regeneration , but doesn’t mention any specific sites or projects (I’m sure every resident could name one or two), and your housing target is no more definite than to ‘seek to meet the housing needs of our communities’.

2012/3 Work Programme

This is really no more than an update on the previously agreed programme, but two items caught my eye:

1. There is due to be an update on the councils’ ‘involvement with’ Fuel Poverty (possibly could have chosen a better phrase, there) in July; an article in today’s Independent (http://ind.pn/KpQGwj) highlights a new report saying that,while DECC estimates 3.9 million people live in fuel poverty, the figure could already be nearly six times at high at 23 million, and could reach 30 million by the end of 2012. I hope someone raises this at the meeting.

2. The work programme refers to a twice-annual report on the work of the Local Strategic Partnership, with the last one reviewed in December 2011, and the next one due in June 2012. Perusing the agenda shows that there is no such report for review.

Ropetackle & Arts Funding Working Group

Sadly, this is a confidential item, so no report is available in advance. I hope the committee members will fully scrutinise the reasons why this is being taken in confidential session.

 

June 13th Planning Committee

6.00 p.m.; Gordon Room, Town Hall

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/Mk03zQ

 

Planning Application

There is only one application on the agenda – a request to cut down a protected horse chestnut tree at St Mary’s RC School in Central ward. The recommendation is to refuse, which seems sensible to me.

Enforcement

A bit of a damp squib here too, with only one enforcement item, and that one is recommended for no further action. Sometimes when building starts on a development, it becomes apparent that the planning permission given is not going to be achieveable – in this case, because part of the building on the site was to be retained, but turned out to be in too poor a condition to remain. As the developer has agreed to rebuild ‘as was’, based on a detailed photographic record, and with materials and details to be agreed, choosing not to enforce the original permission seems sensible

 

On a general note, a light agenda like this for the Planning Committee is not uncommon these days; partly this is due to the recession, but also the Committee has delegated the bulk of the planning decisions to officers. While no one wants to see a return to the days of 8-10 hour Planning Committee meetings, perhaps this sparse agenda indicates that the pendulum ought to swing back a little.

 

June 14th Joint Governance & Audit Committee

6.30 p.m.; Civic Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/Kpvh4t

 

Annual Governance Statement

Only one ‘red’ traffic light, which relates to establishing a protocol for leader/chief executive relations, but this is one of several items which are described as delayed or not progressing – although some of the latter are still ‘green’!

Members’ Allowances

Really pleased to see the panel recommend that special allowances should be removed from policy advisers. On a small council like Worthing, there are far too many of these makeweight posts with no defined accountability or remit; if the cabinet members want advice they should ask the scrutiny committee (or committees, it’s a pet peeve of mine that Worthing only has one).

Also, it makes sense to reduce the allowance for the Licensing Committee Chairman, it used to be a heavy workload, and now isn’t.

E-Petitions

I was slightly worried when I saw this item that the council was considering getting rid of the recourse to petitions offered to residents, but thankfully it’s just a procedural item regarding a contract for software. There is a good result to this: the recommendation is to allow e-petitions to be submitted via any online petition software, which means that the petitioner(s), not the council, will have control of the process.

 

Forward Plan Decisions (June-September FP):

 

none

 

(no decisions are listed in the next four months as due to be made exclusively in Worthing, whether by the cabinet, a cabinet member or the council; three joint decisions with Adur are on the Plan: the Capital Strategy, Medium Term Financial Strategy and possible arrangements for localised Council Tax Schemes. All these are to be considered in June/July)

 

Cabinet/Cabinet Member Decisions

 

Leader of the Council:

none

(last decision 27/3/12)

 

Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Regeneration:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Resources:

none

(last decision 1/5/12)

 

Cabinet Member for Customer Services:

none

(last decision 17/8/11)

 

Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing:

none

(last decision 16/5/11 – 390 days and counting…)

 

Cabinet Member for Environment:

none

(last decision 31/5/12)

No word from WBC on why the Allotments Policy was not a key decision, but it was a short week last week with the bank holidays, so maybe I’ll hear something this week.

 

Joint Cabinet Decisions with Adur:

Application for Voluntary Redundancy: report issued 17/5/12, decision due after 25/5/12.

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