On Tuesday 21 February we held in Kimberley, our first Citizens Focus Group.
I've written about this before:
Essentially I wanted to help create a forum whereby members of the public who are predominantly members of no political party, could get together and have their say on "big issues" facing them, the local communities and our country.
Well, we met in the Nelson & Railway Inn in Kimberley where the beer is second to none. As a good councillor very early on in the week, and having to drive later, it was strictly fizzy water for me though.
We had an encouraging turn out at the meeting plus we were joined by two politics students from Nottingham Trent University.
The topic chosen was that of police commissioners and their pending elections in Nottinghamshire on November 15 this year.
Whilst somehow we managed in the first 10 minutes to bring into the conversation the Stockholm Syndrome (don't ask me now how this was relevant), as people became more confident (most had not met before), the conversation really started to flow. What I've done below is to bullet point the salient points that people made as follows:
1.how really would elected police commissioners directly feed into our communities in Nottinghamshire?
2.should ex-MPs really being standing as candidates - how can they be impartial?
3.surely under this new system one person would have ultimate power - is this right?
4.As young people often feel disengaged from politics, how can 1 elected police commissioner in Nottinghamshire encourage wider participation?
5.Good work that has been done in particular communities - like Awsworth & Cossall where only 4-5 years ago there were major problems with anti social behaviour - the local police have done a brilliant job in building good relationships with local communities. The advent of one elected police commissioner possibly with different local neighbourhood policing focus could undermine all of this.
6.The whole idea of an elected police commissioner is based on a flawed concept, imported from America where there is little if any proof of any long-term benign results for local communities.
7.Particularly if the elected police commissioner is an ex MP they would follow a 'party line' as opposed to what's best for that particular county.
What do do?
Instead of having elected police commissioners we should instead:
•encourage greater connectivity between local schools, police local communities
•have a much clearer and stronger focus on citizenship in schools - this would include work on respect, fostering closer relations between youngsters and police, attack on poverty, emphasis on restorative justice etc.
•encourage youngsters to participate in community activities - such as Party on the Park in Awsworth
•Reverse the austerity measures being pursued by the Coalition, particularly with regards to early intervention, cutting back of youth centres and provision.
•Sure Start, mentors and extra investment in education and early years is of paramount importance
At our next session (date to be arranged - either March or April) - we will be discussing practical steps as to how political parties and local communities can really help build "respect". We'll also look at inviting a guest speaker to address us on this issue to provoke further debate and discussion!
Watch this space for more details.