Monthly Archives: August 2013

Invitation to Surrey Heath CCG event on 24 Sept


The invitation below arrived today. We are all invited to the next public stakeholder event of Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group. I can recommend attending and, in particular, submitting a written question to ensure you get to ask your question. If you want to have your say on the NHS locally, this is the place to be. They are required to listen to us, so don’t miss the opportunity. Regular readers will remember the last one and the compelling 38 Degrees petition we handed in.

Invitation to SHCCG

 

 

To protect and to serve – policing in Surrey Heath


I spent an interesting hour and a half today discussing policing in our borough with Detective Inspector Martin Goodwin and Sergeant Julie Hillman. Martin is the borough commander and responsible for neighbourhood policing here. He invited me to his office at the Surrey Heath Borough Council building in Camberley after a public conversation we had on Twitter last night. The police station in Camberley has closed and they now have a couple of desks in the foyer of the council building to serve the public. There are many more staff and police officers upstairs.

The desks in the foyer are manned by people in uniforms but their epaulettes say, “Police Staff” on them, ie they are not police officers.

The borough is split into three areas for neighbourhood policing. Broadly, this means the six villages are one area and the rest is divided by the M3. Approximately 50 people, police staff and officers, report to Martin.

Operation Nemesis II

Surrey Heath is a very low crime area. It has the best Neighbourhood Watch network in the UK. I can vouch for the local police panels and how reassuring they are for the residents who attend them. However, there is drug-related crime even here and local police have been raiding suspected drug dealers in a plan they call Operation Nemesis II. This was reported on in this week’s Camberley News and Mail. A journalist accompanied police on one of their raids on which no drugs were found, a “negative result”.

Now, in this country police can’t just smash into people’s homes on the off-chance that they’re drug dealers so they must have had multiple reasons to suspect drugs were there. They have to convince a magistrate to authorise a search warrant. Despite that, sometimes no drugs are found, like in this case. There is no feedback loop to the magistrates to explain why this is happens in some cases so they never get to find out if no drugs were found because a dealer managed to flush them down the toilet in time or because it was a totally innocent person living there minding their own business.

I had been concerned about police concentrating resources on busting cannabis users and small-time dealers. However, Martin assured me that the aim of Operation Nemesis II is to target class A drugs. I think this is a reasonable aim and he confirmed that many other crimes are associated with class A drugs. Like most people, I want the police to target class A drugs dealers, raiding their homes if necessary, and I’m not surprised if they also find cannabis there. The communications I had read seemed only to mention cannabis and it’s unfortunate that the one raid which was witnessed by the impartial press had a “negative result”.

Martin accepted that rounding up drugs dealers only tackles the supply side of the drugs market and only for a short time. He said that it makes drugs less accessible but addicts will travel outside the borough if necessary to get drugs and may have to shoplift more to afford the petrol to get to London. He told me about how addicts in the borough are dealt with and the assistance they receive to come off drugs. This is clearly the best way to tackle drug crime, in my opinion, attacking the demand side of the market.

From what I could see though, our local police are aware of the drug scene in this borough and are acting broadly appropriately. Intelligence about drugs dealers will always be imprecise but police may have to act on it knowing it might not be correct to protect the public. It is important that they weigh up the risks of this too, of course, and don’t raid private properties without probable cause.

“Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” - Disraeli (possibly)

We went on to discuss crime statistics. Now, Martin (obviously) did not tell me any lies about this. In fact, everything he told me was the truth (and I believed him). However, he did use a lot of statistics. The police force uses statistics for the numbers of each crime reported in each month to measure how effective they are. I don’t think this is fair on Martin and the Surrey Heath police officers. There are so many variables, other than police activity, which influence how many crimes are recorded in a given area. In a low crime area like here this is especially true. If a prolific burglar is released from prison they might commit a couple of months’ worth of crimes in two days before they can be re-arrested. This would completely skew the statistics and be no fault of the local police. The same month the following year, if this doesn’t happen, recorded crime might be seen to drop x% but again it would be due to the exceptional item not happening rather than more effective policing. Martin’s spreadsheet showed how many of each category of crime was reported in each area of the borough so far this financial year and compared it with last year. Where the number had gone up, the percentage increase was on a red background. Some were up by 100%, some were down by 100%, some were in between. All the numbers were small.

I much prefer to look at qualitative measures of crime, the fear of crime and police effectiveness. There were measures of public confidence in the police and satisfaction numbers for people who had reported anti-social behaviour. I’m happy to report that they are high. I wrote down what the exact percentages are and how they changed over a year but I don’t think that is relevant. Like me, most residents have confidence in Surrey Heath police.

I don’t think looking at year-on-year changes to small numbers of crimes is very useful. Although, they did say that we have about one domestic burglary every two days in the borough and ten years ago it was about two burglaries per day. That is a relevant stat, I think. Crime is low here and, as a resident, that’s how it feels to me. I want it to remain like that and I want our police to remain tolerant, sensible and approachable.

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime - Tony Blair

We talked about local crime prevention measures too. A lot of thought has gone into this, as I would expect. Regular readers will remember that I witnessed Surrey Police’s Taser training and talked to response officers about their decision making. In neighbourhood policing the scenario is wider and longer. I think experienced officers know what works, for example, to keep fighting to a minimum in Camberley town centre on a Saturday night. I hope they don’t rely on statistics too much and can use their knowledge and experience to keep the crime numbers low here and are not forced to display ‘zero tolerance’ when it is not appropriate.

At the end, we even had a chance to discuss the Red Road and traffic problems like speeding. It’s good to know that our local police team are thinking about this too and realise it is important to residents.

It was great to have the opportunity to talk at length about policing in Surrey Heath. I’m very grateful to Martin and Julie for answering my questions patiently and openly. My message to the top management of Surrey Police is: if your short-term crime stats show an increase in Surrey Heath, do not blame the local police officers, realise that low crime numbers can show wild percentage swings for other reasons, and consider if ‘zero tolerance’ is really appropriate for somewhere like Surrey Heath.

 

Prepare to be gagged


On 3 September the government will bring the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill before Parliament. The aim of this bill is to gag non-party campaigning groups such as HOPE not hate and 38 Degrees.

The bill would prevent campaigning groups from spending much money in the 12 months before an election, any election. They would also have to account for staff time, unlike political parties.

The Tory-LibDem Coalition has been forced into many U-turns by campaigners and now they want to gag them. This is similar to how ‘localism’ is being applied: people are actually finding it harder to have their say. For example, the Deepcut Neighbourhood Forum was abandoned because Tory Surrey Heath Borough Council would not release its grip on any power whatsoever.

The government minister responsible for the gagging bill is Chloe Smith, who you might remember for this highlight in her career:

You can see an example of the kind of campaigning, featuring Windlesham, which the government wants to stamp out here:

You can stand up for your right to be heard by powerful politicians by clicking here to send a message to Clueless Chloe. Once they take away our right to campaign, we will never get it back. As politics moves further and further away from the concerns of ordinary people, we need peaceful effective campaigning more than ever.

UPDATE 30 AUGUST

These two emails arrived today about this. Sorry that the end of them has been cut off!

ERS email

38degrees email

The Red Road: Something Must Be Done…


… and this is “something”

As I mentioned previously, at last week’s committee meeting of the Windlesham Society it was announced by a county councillor that there would be a new roundabout built on the Red Road in Lightwater at its junction with Lightwater Road. This will be combined with banning right turns onto Red Road from Macdonald Road, so that traffic will travel east initially then do a 180º turn round the new roundabout before travelling back west again.

More details were covered in the press here. As you can see from my comment below the getSurrey article, I don’t think this proposal has much merit.

Safety First?

When I stood in the parish byelection in Lightwater West on 6 Dec 2012, the safety of the Red Road was a major issue on the doorstep. Although I didn’t win the election, the Tories were forced to “do something” again. They reduced the speed limit from 60mph to 50mph. The crashes continued.

If the aim of the recent proposal is to reduce accidents, I thought it would be best to find out what was causing accidents on the Red Road. I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Surrey County Council for the data they hold on accidents here in the last ten years. They responded promptly and I’m grateful to them. They only hold data on accidents where there has been an injury or death. Also, where the age is given as 99, this means that they don’t know the person’s age, not that a 99 year-old was involved.

Here is the data I received for the period from Jan 2003 to June 2013: Accrep_FOI -09645-Red Road Camberley – A3015 The Maultway to A322 Guildford Road Jan2003toJune2013

There is some really interesting detail in there. Behind the basic facts jotted in a police notebook are people whose day has just turned into a crisis. They’ve been injured, their cars are in a ditch, their passengers are in hospital and they’re standing in the rain explaining themselves to the police, sometimes after blowing into a breathalyser with disappointing results. I urge you to read it and decide for yourself what is causing accidents on the Red Road.

Here is a screenshot from www.crashmap.co.uk showing 6 years of accidents on a map.

Here is a screenshot from http://www.crashmap.co.uk showing 6 years of accidents on a map.

Personally, I think banning right turns out of Macdonald Road might have influenced 2 accidents in ten years. The dangerous section of the road, where inexperienced drivers learn about cornering, it seems, is further west. So why spend all this money modifying one junction, at the expense of messing up another, when what we need is a way of stopping people losing control on the bendy hilly section? Speed cameras are unpopular but there is no substitute in this instance.

The new roundabout will halt west-bound traffic while cars are doing the 180º turn. This will be a new source of accidents, as well as slowing the flow of traffic. At busy times, nobody will be able to leave Briar Avenue onto the Red Road because every gap in east-bound traffic will be filled with traffic from Macdonald Road. This proposal will harm the flow of traffic, as well as make the road more dangerous.

Keep Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

I think our dependence on the car in this area is destructive. It worsens our quality of life. Instead of spending lots of money on a new roundabout just to be seen to be doing something, we should be building a safe cycle route parallel to the Red Road. In Google Maps it looks like a track already exists. The new Deepcut development will have a network of cycle routes which could link up to this and permit safe cycling between Deepcut and Lightwater and later perhaps Camberley and Windlesham and further.

The proposed roundabout would allow even more rat-running through Windlesham to get to the M3. The A322 gets so congested that desperate drivers go down Broadway Road, Church Road and New Road to approach the junction from the north. At peak times, it is already difficult to get out of Windmill Field in Windlesham. This hastily conceived plan might placate a few residents near the Macdonald Road junction but it will be at the expense of many residents in Windlesham.

We need to break with the mindset that forces us to destroy our environment, our climate and our health by being enslaved to the car. We need leadership from our elected officials to promote sustainable transport and facilities to work from home. Those who have to rely on cars, should at least expect the roads to be safe, not test tracks for budding Lewis Hamiltons.

Instead of this ill-conceived plan, I suggest:

  • Safe cycle routes,
  • Speed cameras, and
  • A change of mindset. Please.

Zenith Windows Sales Thugs Target Windlesham


It’s been a year or two since they’ve been round here but the aggressive sales teams from the widely-hated double glazing company Zenith are targeting Windlesham again. I’ve told them to their face, by phone and by email never to contact me but they haven’t kept any record of it. I suspect this is illegal.

Having my photo taken without my permission on my own doorstep by Zenith sales-thug.

Having my photo taken without my permission on my own doorstep by Zenith sales-thug.

Every time they knock on my door I immediately tell them I’m not interested but they never just say, “sorry to bother you then, good-bye”. They hang around on my doorstep for an argument. This time, however, one of them, the leader, got out his mobile phone to take a picture of me. Also, none of them had visible ID and didn’t display it when I asked to see it. They are the worst kind of doorstep predators, rude, aggressive and harassing people on their own doorsteps.

I phoned Surrey Police on 101 and reported it. Unfortunately I didn’t get their car registration number, I’ll make sure I do next time. If these characters have been bothering you too, phone 101 and quote ref P13249030.

Zenith doorstep pest sales thug won't leave when I told him to.

Zenith doorstep pest sales thug won’t leave when I told him to.

Do you know this man? He harasses people on their own doorsteps.

Do you know this man? He harasses people on their own doorsteps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE 22 AUGUST

This has been the most viewed post on the blog over the last week, so obviously people feel strongly about doorstep pests like this one. I’m pleased to say that Zenith’s Operations Director, Peter Gray, has been in touch. I’m not sure if he was prompted by my email or this blog… or Twitter… or the comments I left on Zenith’s facebook page. He started by apologising in this email before we spoke on the phone this morning:

Gray emailMr Gray apologised on the phone and admitted wrongdoing by his staff. He did say that they are self-employed so he couldn’t stop them from knocking on my door again, however. He has heard the account of doorstep interlocutor, although he hasn’t spoken to him personally, and says it is different from mine. He wouldn’t tell me the name of the young man in the photos above but he did say he would tell the police if asked.

Next I phoned Surrey Police on 101 to update them. They have recorded Mr Gray’s contact details but said they won’t phone him to get the name unless Zenith bother me again. I can expect a call from the ‘safer neighbourhood team’, I’m told.

If you’ve been bothered by Zenith Windows door-to-door salespeople, please phone the police and quote ref P13249035. Harassment is a crime and if these commit it enough times Surrey Police will act to stop it.

New DERA Site Planning Application


Here is the latest planning application to be filed by Crest Nicholson for the DERA site at Chobham Common after they withdrew their previous one:

Aug 13 DERA

I was going to post links to Runnymede Borough Council’s website for the full list of documents but it has crashed, again. This usually happens when the DERA site is in the news!

We defeated the last application and we can defeat this one too. Our Green Belt is not up for sale, at any price.

We won the last battle but this is a war, between ordinary residents on one side and the power and money of Crest Nicholson, Aviva Investors and drink-drive Cllr John Furey on the other. The result of this war will decide the fate of Surrey’s countryside, its rare wildlife and the peace and quiet of many villages and towns.

UPDATE 16 AUGUST

The RBC website now has the new plans and documents and it seems to be running normally, at the moment.

Windlesham Society Committee Meeting 12 August


The committee of the non-party political Windlesham Society met last night. Here are my personal opinions about a few of the points that caught my attention:

Membership Fees

I suggested keeping it at £1 for the next year but I was out-voted. It will rise to £3 per annum which is still great value. This will create a large annual surplus so we could use that for events and campaigning, I hope.

Planning

I’m the Society’s Planning Officer so I updated people about the withdrawal of the DERA North site planning application. Although well outside Windlesham, we discussed the Deepcut application too. A county councillor present said that a new roundabout will be built on the Red Road at Lightwater Road. This is an interesting development which was new to me. I really hope it won’t increase rat-running through Windlesham to get from Deepcut to the M3 and vice versa.

Former Doctors’ Surgery

The building that was used as a branch doctors’ surgery in the middle of Windlesham is now in use by two complementary businesses, a chiropractor and a masseur, I think. The building meets all the relevant access and safety requirements. This proves again what we already knew, Lightwater Surgery had no valid reason to close it down. Its closure has caused great worry and distress to many people and the only reason for it was the doctors’ personal advantage. Many of us still feel bitter about the misleading way our GP surgery was stolen from our village. I re-registered with another practice (which was very easy to do) for this reason.

Windlesham Field of Remembrance

As the Society’s representative on the Field’s committee, I updated everyone about the excellent progress being made with fundraising for the new pavilion. Door-to-door collections for the Field will be happening soon throughout the village. Also, the Carry On Camping event and fireworks display are coming up soon.

M3 Managed Motorway Scheme

There was a comprehensive update about the plans to turn the hard shoulder of the M3 into a running lane.

Any Other Business

We also discussed: the Neighbourhood Plan, the Arboretum, fracking, Windlesham Walks and various local planning applications.

Any Windlesham residents who would like my personal view about any other Windlesham Society matters are welcome to get in touch.

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