Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Questions

Wednesday saw the first Mayor's Question Time of the new term. With the weeks now counting down to the 2012 Boris v Ken v Ex Deputy Assistant Commissioner Paddick rematch, there was plenty of political point making and the Mayor himself was not taking prisoners. Not surprisingly, the August riots attracted a lot of attention - and the public gallery was packed.

The Riot Act

Steve O'Connell led off by inviting the mayor to encourage police to act to prevent riots rather than just responding to the mayhem. Steve saw the consequences of the recent disorder in his own Croydon constituency and other members were keen to back him up. The mood is clearly in favour of tougher policing.

I made the point that long after most of us had worked out that these were criminal looters, the BBC were still referring to them as 'protestors' and trying to find a cause for what they saw as rebels. The Mayor replied diplomatically, that he hadn't seen much of the media coverage. I added that in future the police should treat vandalism, graffiti and intimidation of Londoners as criminal acts regardless of the causes espoused by those committing them. Making a point about tuition fees, cuts or climate change is no more valid an excuse than wanting a pair of trainers or a mobile phone.

Dee Doocey asked about the effects on London's economy. Boris replied that these were still being calculated. I stated that there needed to be a review of town centre planning to ensure the safety of the residents, with stronger defences, clear CCTV lines of sight and sprinklers in new buildings. With apartments over shops the stakes are not just economic - homes and lives are at risk too. I also asked for some clearer guidance about the force that could legally be used to defend property, a question that has been raised by small businesses in my constituency.

I asked for more public order training for police. In Ilford some of the officers who found themselves defending the High Road had not received riot training and in many places they did not have appropriate equipment. Boris replied that this was now a priority at the Met.

Most members pitched in on behalf of their constituents who felt real fear and uncertainty during the riots and in the uneasy days that followed. There wasn't much sympathy for the perpetrators. Green Mayoral candidate Jenny Jones remained silent for once - the current mood does not suit her previous stance which was critical of policing in earlier demonstrations.

TfL Grants to Boroughs

Brian Coleman was critical of the LIP process by which TfL provide funding to boroughs for highway schemes. He related an amusing tale of TfL asking his officers to write a longer report if they wanted the money - "twenty more pages of waffle" had allegedly been requested. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case, the bureaucracy still needs to be trimmed.

Taxi Touts

I was pleased that Caroline Pidgeon raised the question of illegal mini cabs once again. This is an ongoing concern to many constituents who are law abiding licensed drivers and I often flag up these concerns with the Mayor.

Boris reported a 37% fall in sexual offences in illegal cabs which is very welcome news, but Caroline was concerned that CRB checks for drivers from other countries were of questionable value. She also mentioned that New York has many more enforcement officers than London's Public Carriage Office.

Since 2008 more than 600 licences have been revoked for illegal touting, but often the most prolific offenders return to the streets within a few days. I suggested that prosecutions should look for other matters - benefit fraud, driving without insurance, illegal immigration and unfit vehicles - which could be added to the charge sheet, ensuring longer detention and in some cases deportation for the worst cases.


Peter Hulme Cross said...

Does nothing ever change, Roger??
"CRB checks for drivers from other countries were of questionable value"
I was hammering this same point 4 years ago!
Very glad Caroline Pigeon is still 'on the case' but something should have been done about it by now.

"I suggested that prosecutions should look for other matters - benefit fraud, driving without insurance, illegal immigration and unfit vehicles - which could be added to the charge sheet,"

Absolutely right! This is another thing that should have been done long before now and has been talked about before. When an arrest is made a DNA swab is taken so it is quite possible and should be routine.

691 trolleybus fan said...

I tried some time ago now, when Kennybaby was still Mayor, to report a licensed vehicle whose driver displayed some appallingly poor standards. TfL did not want to know and said it was a police matter!

169 patron said...

So did you report it to the police?

691 trolleybus fan said...

No - I prefer that they devote their time to pursuing REAL crime...... I do hope Father Christmas comes this year.

I don't understand why TfL have a licensing role but not a regulatory one. Perhaps it's just about raking in yet more money.

Anonymous said...

Riots: When I was in school, gangs of kids mobbed the school tuck shop and robbed everything. So to see riots today, does not surprise me. There is a sick mentality in some of our schools, they are rough unsafe places. Every school kids will know who will grow up to be the trouble maker. We need to identify potentials people when they are young and work with them.

Some kids speak rudely to teachers. We have taken away the power from teacher to discipline children "You can't touch me!".

So by the time these bad kids grow up, they know there are no consequence to their actions. They leave with no qualifications and have nothing to loose.

Smashing up a few shops only increases their "street cred" in the eyes of their friends.

These bad kids, not only disrupt their own education, but also those of the 'smart' kids.

We have a culture in our schools, where it is "uncool" to be smart.

This is a big problem for the UK economy. We need some for a 'grammar school' to filter out the smart kids.