Residents’ Question Time, Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, 2009

East London Advertiser puts this positive report about the event. I have reservations as to how much one spectacular event can achieve compared with the daily need to solve and tackle problems.

East London Advertiser puts this positive report about the event. I have reservations as to how much one spectacular event can achieve compared with the daily need to solve and tackle problems. I can be seen at the bottom left of the picture.

Today at the Children’s Museum, was a lively well attended event, that used gimmicks like the You decide voting gadgets to allow people to express a view of yes or no. people could vote on the 5 topics, to say whether they think more or less should be done to combat the problems and of course all voted to have done more, they even voted for another one of these events.

The yes or no mentality has often been criticized but this event, chaired by John Biggs, Labour’s flagship at County hall, was just another Yes or No spectacular. However full credit to Abu Sufian who did an excellent job organising it and it was well stocked with stalls around the hall, handing out goodies to the attending public and one could get anyting from a mug to a personal alarm and very useful secret ink pens as well as secret hideaway tins of food.

In my view we do not need gimmicks to solve the problems in Tower Hamlets, what we need is a steady amount of grassroots activists that work with locals in their areas to support law and order and help people feel proud that their children are not the trouble makers as today being in trouble seems to be the socially acceptable norm. It is this type of social perception of what is acceptable or not that creates the social mix. Hopefully this event helped to achieve this, and I would have liked to see more emphasis on the promotion of Neighbourhood Watch Schemes in this respect.

Today, unless you are in trouble, have broken the law, unless you are addicted to drugs and want to come off again, today you will not get help and assistance, no preferential treatment, no one will ask you how you are. It’s those help you back to normal once you have broken the law, do good attitude that is responsible for the destruction of our good social values, which are, don’t break the law, keep out of trouble, work hard. In fact £350.000 of our money is spent on after-crime activities, this money could do a lot more good in crime prevention to shift the emphasis on families rather than social services.

It is normal today in Tower Hamlets to have problems and indeed even when we sat in the meeting and talked about noisy mopeds, at that very moment outside one could hear a noisy moped roaming the street.

The 5 topics were 1. Youth engagement and a big emphasis was on how to get youth who got in trouble with the law back into normal life and there is the first problem, why not think instead, help families by making it a good social value to have children that are not in trouble. The more the media talks about being in trouble.

Indeed at one point a newspaper was asked to write about good achievements in the borough. We have 2 major newspapers, the council printed one and the commercial one. Either one has not got a proper balance with reporting. East End Life only writes about positives whilst East London Advertiser writes a lot about negatives. I think it is a bit away from reality that one paper should only write about positives and the other only about negatives. In the balance, East London Advertiser is more realistic in writing about both.

question_time_0905EA

East End Life report about the Question Time event.

2. Subject was women and crime and we did not once hear the immense amount of women in forced marriages, as if it were a taboo for this Labour council.

Subject 3 was drug use and supply and that caused the most uproar. The police saying they have covert operations going on and the residents saying, yes but we just want dealers arrested and off our estate. Everybody knows them coming and going and why can they do it for such long amounts of time.

Police say they rely on information from the public whilst I think this can only be partially the case as people are not employed to spend hours in writing down number plates and other information, it should be the police that is doing this especially also as it was clearly said that vigilante actions are not supported. Nowadays residents no longer sit behind curtains to watch the street, they watch TV instead. People actually offered citizens’ arrests, showing how fed up residents are with the drug dealing menace and do not wish to tolerate ongoing drug dealing. 

Commander Rickett advised strongly against vigilante actions but failed to address the right of citizens to carry out a citizens arrest. Common sense would imply that drug dealers often do have concealed weapons on them and a citizens arrest is not advisable on those grounds alone. It could lead to shootouts in domestic environments and endanger lives.

It’s always a problem, that once a problem takes hold then it is hard to get rid of it, and the UK being the Cocaine capital of Europe, according to a UN report, I think the police cannot afford to let covert operations go on in our domestic environments as it does as much harm as it does good. As long as illegal actions are being observed they do go on. Especially activities like drug dealing can easily be observed via CCTV, which is very much more effective as personal observation. Also related crime like car break ins can be better observed using CCTV. As member of the LAP 1 Steering group I helped to divert money to Bethnal Green North so that all lightbulbs in the area can be changed, which should help combat drug related activity.

Section 4 Anti-social behaviour is one of those items that are a socially acceptable behaviour and it must be gripped by the roots, e.g. start in the family. Again the media has a lot to do with it, reporting only about the problems it causes instead of reporting about good families. Unfortunately the press is more busy reporting a lot about freedoms and rights of those not wanting to chose family life instead of reporting about those poor but honest families that cope well even in poverty.

The issue of alcohol raised tempers and it was said that it is the Councillors that allow applications for licensed premises and one person said, yes it is this Labour Council and there was John Biggs, one of the biggest Labour figureheads hosting the event. I think John Biggs was a poor choice for host and he was politically tainted. It should have been an independent host, not affiliated to any political party. After all Labour runs this borough of Tower Hamlets since a very long time and profound and persistent problems were not overcome by Labour, indeed problems have manifested itself as permanent.

Councillor Ullah urged protests but he is not even sitting on the licensing committee. Now even Tesco wants to get in on the alcohol bandwagon when every other corner shop and newsagent makes ends meet with alcohol sales.

Under age drinkers get around the ban on selling alcohol directly to them by asking adults to purchase it for them and that is the same with cigarettes but that was not even mentioned once in the meeting.

Unfortunately John Biggs consistently ignored my raised hand and I was not allowed to ask a question, when I am one of the few people in the borough that successfully started a “Neighbourhood Watch” and my example should be taken as a good one but there one can see that party politics often outweighs common sense and this event was party politically tainted, in my view set up to create votes for the next elections in favour of the Labour Party. But in fairness it must be mentioned that another person got to ask the qustion about Neighbourhood Watches, well done!

What our area needs is social stability, but the constant influx of new faces, students, poverty and deprivation doesn’t make that easy.

I felt sorry for the panel who did their best to answer questions and all gave outstanding contributions, and all were dedicated professionals but Mr Bigg’s humorous remarks were out of place on an evening that saw people spill out their desperation from their neighbourhoods.

The panel, and especially the Social Services representative saw people and families as objects to be worked with rather than people who can become successful if only given the right tools to do so. For example on some estates boys won’t even get a football cage. We’ve heard that youth get record investment but on Parkview estate we have a real problem in one part of the estate for lack of essential play areas and our very good community centre is refused essential funding.

The panel on this discussion event in Bethnal Green in 2009
The panel on this discussion event in Bethnal Green in 2009

People were encouraged to ask questions and questions ask they did and the panel did their best to answer to the point that I was actually worried about the well-being of Borough Commander Rickett who answered most questions and tries really very hard to do his job and please the people.

But in such a spectacular fashion the event was held that many underlying factors could only be touched in the light of many asking for holistic approaches.
When the point came to helping drug addicts overcome addictions the question of allocating jobs as work therapy but that of course is a very tall order in times of recession.
The event encouraged people to complain about their neighbourhoods but did very little to help them work within their neighbourhoods to resolve the issues raised.
Only one person asked about Neighbourhood Watch and one even offered to carry out citizens arrests.
Councillor Ullah advised people to continue forming action groups to prevent more and more licensed premises appearing but he does not even sit on the licensing committee that continues to agree to venues selling alcohol in the borough. I heard a suggestion that a study about saturation of alcohol has been reached but that got kind of overlooked.
The latest UN report on the UK’s status of Europe’s drug capital was not once mentioned but Commander Rickett praised his own efforts and record numbers of arrests. The drug problem must be immense if people are still complaining about it.
From the many stalls around the hall, we could get all kinds of useful goods, from heart-shaped personal alarms to mugs, pens, rulers.
I filled myself a bag full of it and then forget the bag in the excitement.
But John Biggs was the worst host the event could have had. Mr Biggs constantly threw in his own political ambitions, so when one person asked a question, he was taunted for having stood against Mr Biggs in the past and lost and then made to feel awkward when asking the question. Totally inappropriate remarks from the host.
But, the event in general was well received and had a positive impact on crime related issues in Tower Hamlets and there is a press release from Tower Hamlets council on their website with picture gallery and I see that Ann Edmead got shown the most.
I am most please the person asking about Neighbourhood Watch is in the picture together with the Neighbourhood Watch coordinator volunteer.
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