Friday, October 01, 2010

Labour Party Conference 2010: A London Housing Workers' tale

This is a guest post from the "front line" of public housing in London by a good comrade, Alan Griffiths (in photo voting with left arm up). He was a London UNISON delegate at conference. He is also a fellow Newham Councillor (and he even has a splendid Welsh name)

Despite lots of frantic waving of papers he was not selected to give this speech on Tuesday's Crime debate. Which I think was a shame.

"Conference: Since the ConDem government began, Police Community Support Officers, created by the Labour government, have been sent Redundancy Notices.

The proposed closures of County Courts and of Magistrates Courts will mean even more delays in getting cases heard.

I’m here this morning to give you a housing officer’s experience of crime and disorder issues, with some examples.

I gave evidence, at half a day’s notice, in a fraud trial at a Crown Court. I had to be careful not to let the Jury know that the defendants had previous convictions and that I had already repossessed a flat. That case is highlighted amongst the achievements of the Council’s Fraud Team. Those defendants had false identities, several addresses and lived in a half-million pound house.

Partnership working reduces Crime and Disorder.

I have submitted a statement and given evidence to a Magistrates’ Court, supporting a Police application for a Premises Closure Order.

Partnership working reduces Crime and Disorder.

I once had a tenant approach me, very concerned that a man she really didn’t want to know was to be released from prison on Licence. I phoned his Probation Officer and asked for an extra condition on his Licence.

Partnership working reduces Crime and Disorder.

Not so long ago, Police raided a flat and arrested two young men, one a close relative of the tenant. Later the Police opened the metal tool box that had been thrown out of a window shortly before they arrived and found two guns. The Crown Prosecution Service thought there wasn’t enough evidence for a criminal prosecution. It would not be appropriate for me to tell you what the Police officers involved thought of that! The landlord went to the County Court and the Postponed Possession Order has conditions including that the arrested relative does not live at the flat, does not have a key to the flat and does not have a key to the block.

Partnership working reduces Crime and Disorder.

Conference, three of the four cases I have just mentioned were in the same block of flats in less than two years.

Partnership working reduces is Crime and Disorder.

The key partnership for reducing Crime and Disorder is between Councils and Police. Tory MPs voted again that, just like earlier Tory MPs voted against the National Health Service.

I introduced Acceptable Behaviour Contracts or Agreements at my work and there was a time when I had done more of them than all my colleagues put together.

Some foolish people would like you to believe that those informal methods are an alternative to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders in every case. Every Acceptable Behaviour Contract or Agreement that carried my employer’s logo included a clear threat of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order if the perpetrator’s behaviour did not improve. Without ASBOs the next step would have to be prosecution.

The Tory Home Secretary has allowed it to be put about that she is thinking of repealing Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. I had a John P McEnroe moment “You cannot be serious”. Next week she has a chance to show that she is serious and say it isn’t so.

If she does not, we’ll all be entitled to have a Billy Connolly moment “Hangings too good for the likes of Youse. It’s a good kick up the arse ye need”.

No comments: