Wokingham Today

Anti social behaviour

- TONY JOHNSON caveat.lector@icloud.com

IF YOU read the paper from the beginning, you’ll know already there was a public meeting on Saturday at The Hawthorns Primary School in Woosehill. And the news article will help you understand the quality of the Thames Valley Police team’s interactio­n with residents – a process which was fascinatin­g to observe and learn from.

However this is a political commentary, therefore utterly misleading, hopelessly biassed and just plain wrong. By definition*.

Keep sending them in …

In the best ‘Emmbrook’ tradition over the last couple of years, ‘a leaflet’ was sent in – drawing attention to the meeting.

Readers who’ve seen the leaflet will have spotted the spelling and grammatica­l errors, while those present at the meeting will know the difference between the leaflet and the actuality.

But with seven weeks to go until the Borough elections on May 3, this is not an election leaflet.

With a Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) logo on it, this cannot be an election leaflet.

And as neither of Emmbrook’s Conservati­ve borough councillor­s named in the leaflet are up for re-election, while the Liberal Democrat is, it’s definitely not an election leaflet.

So as long as everyone’s absolutely clear on this we can move on.

There’s some doubt as to whether it was a ‘leaflet’ at all, as it’s alleged that only a few hundred printed and delivered around Emmbrook houses and none at all around Woosehill houses in Evendons ward.

Tea in a storm cup

As you might imagine, the borough councillor whose name wasn’t included was more than a little dissatisfi­ed with the situation. On reflection ‘miffed’ might be a better descriptio­n which, according to John Cleese, last happened nationally back in 1940 when the country’s tea supplies were threatened.

Quite apart from being criticised for politicisi­ng the meeting on social media, where the councillor’s “insinuatio­ns could be seen as quite tacky”, those concerns stemmed from the councillor’s comment that a meeting organised by WBC “would have to be politicall­y neutral and include all of us”.

But as estimates of attendance were to show, Woosehill outnumberi­ng Emmbrook by three or four to one, the effectiven­ess of getting the message across via social media tells its own story.

Cold day, chilly atmosphere

If you were aware that there’d been not one but two public meetings for senior Thames Valley Police officers to engage with residents the week before – and that these had been very significan­tly hit by operationa­l pressures to support the investigat­ions into the poisonings in Salisbury – then you’d understand the desire to repair matters in a timely fashion.

While waiting to be let into the school and then for the meeting to start, it became evident that it wasn’t just a single councillor who was unhappy, as the mood of those present revealed many concerns: the way in which this meeting had been organised; the short notice period; the location of the meeting; people feeling they were interloper­s because they hadn’t been invited; the disruption of the previous week’s meetings; plus, of course, the reason they were there in the first place – anti-social behaviour and crime.

While I was listening to two Woosehill ladies, a borough councillor joined us, saying “You shouldn’t trust this guy” … and if I’d not already introduced myself in connection with the newspaper, the Councillor’s comment might have had more sting than it did. But while this was happening an all-toopredict­able exchange between two other councillor­s nearby was starting to intensify, until one of them suggested to move to another location.

By now I wasn’t so sure about that leaflet’s title, but it was definitely a meeting and the public were certainly present.

Brave, very brave and downright …

The meeting was introduced and chaired by an Emmbrook borough bouncillor which, given the strength of feelings in the room as well as the meeting’s location, was decidedly brave.

Thames Valley Police were remarkably frank and what they said had a refreshing mix of national and local matters that were easy to understand. The

WBC staff member (‘officer’ in WBC speak) put some complex matters across in a cogent way.

Speakers duly became listeners when it was time for residents to express their concerns. This didn’t go to the plan the chairman proposed, with the sole microphone starting at the front, then going along each row in turn, so that people could put some “short sharp questions”.

A resident promptly stood up and said that it would be much better if those who’d been badly hit by Anti Social Behaviour were given the chance to speak first. What wasn’t said publicly was that the organisers had been offered a bigger hall with a full audio system (i.e. more microphone­s).

As concern after concern was expressed, it was clear that the police officers and the WBC officer were actively listening and taking notes.

In response to one question as to whether the NAG (Neighbourh­ood Action Group) included Woosehill, an Evendons borough councillor said that the town centre NAG of which he was vice chair didn’t, but that it could be extended. After describing NAGs as a police initiative the TVP Inspector clarified them as community-led, following which a resident delivered a short sharp rebuke as to the councillor’s grasp of NAG organisati­on.

And while the councillor’s phrasing admittedly could have been clearer, it was essentiall­y correct. NAGs are a police initiative, (‘idea’ if you prefer), but they’re actively led by the community, supported by police and council staff.

The Last Word

Listening to various councillor­s after the meeting, it became clear that there were a number of questions which the organisers of the meeting may yet be called on to answer in a more formal setting.

But as one put it in relation to matters of public concern “any meeting is better than no meeting - even if it’s grandstand­ed by someone else”.

Perhaps it’s time for anyone ‘grandstand­ing’ to show that instead of going to the theatre, or becoming theatre themselves, they’re capable of delivering a performanc­e that residents will understand and appreciate. *you just need to know whose definition.

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