That LAP post “You decide” conference

It was interesting to get the statistics from the voting sessions. One of the more relevant conclusions was the measurement of voting choices. Having been heavily criticised that the items for “sale” on the budgets were not the people’s choice and were determined by the Council’s Cabinet it measured the number of successes voters had with their choices. 
To explain, people get shown a menu of items they can vote on and it is measured how many hits a voter got. Not all persons were successful bidding successfully on at least one item.

What causes a lot of extra work is the division of the borough into LAPs in the first place. 7 areas were created and each one of them has a menu tailored for their small geographical region, with each budget being spent individually in each region.

That costs a lot of administration and men hours to conclude the purchases and implement the items chosen.

I feel slightly uneasy that people had to purchase CCTV cameras because either they are needed to prevent crime or not and if they are needed then why should it be a choice of a minority of people whether they want to purchase them or not as anyhow only 100 persons per area were voting. For example if at least 50 criminals book themselves in first to vote then the chances of purchasing CCTV cameras are considerably reduced. I also raised that at the last Safer Neighbourhood meeting that if policing is done mostly by demand, the law abiding areas will only be able to complain once the socially disruptive elements have gone completely out of hand so that they have become a nuisance, when it will be too late. More should be done to spread policing into all areas and not only into those areas where things have become so bad that serious concerns are existing.

So if enough people in one area support anti-social behaviour and do not complain the police will not pay a lot of attention to it until someone does complain and that leaves anti-social behaviour a lot of time to develop. One argument against me came in the form of, well if neighbouring areas then complain about the anti-social behaviour of another then it will be dealt with but I think that more should be done to nib anti-social behaviour in the bud rather then let it become established.

People were not properly informed prior to the “You decide” event and confronted with voting options during and before the actual voting took place. Whilst I welcome the stimulating of interest in how budgets are spent and that people take an active interest in their area, I think that more has to be done to prepare voters. I personally feel too much money is spend in after-crime treatment of those failing the law, rather than crime prevention.

For example our local community centres have been starved of funding, volunteers are not properly trained. All those items are very important. It is mostly the low income and poor working class that make use of community centres, those who are not university educated and if they are not being given venues to mix socially and children are roaming the streets we will find a degradation of social relationship into anti-social behaviour.

We need structured community activities, training of community volunteers and play areas for children and youth to prevent crime but the more money is put into after crime care, the less is available to prevent crime and that is fundamentally wrong. Unfortunately at yesterday’s event, my remarks about this were completely overlooked.

I am not sure that LAPs are an ideal solution to administer any borough because administration by geography alone and not by theme will lead to a splitting up of resources, similarly to the NHS being split up into a lot of small chunks, that have less resources each than they had before and health treatment becomes more expensive.

As far as I understand the LAP system is unique to Tower Hamlets and a social experiment that shows little promise. The “You decide” process has been imported from South America, a traditionally socialist or fascist environment and is introduced to us in Tower Hamlets, but I am not sure why.

Judging by the propaganda that is spread amongst members of the steering groups, Doros Ullah from LAP 7 says that steering group members will ensure that these services will be delivered, implying that unless steering groups monitor the spending process the services voted for will not be delivered?

I am a steering group member but neither had a choice in the items up for voting not have my concerns been noted. I am glad however that the Conservative parts of Tower Hamlets have achieved that voters below the age of 18 will no longer be able to vote on such events as they are not rate payers.  One sensible suggestion during the meeting last night was that spending “for” young people should be ring-fenced, so there are genuine concerns that not enough is done for young people to keep them out of trouble. Especially as most of our local youngsters will not be able to enjoy university they are double hampered with low level education, bad housing, little recreation and a threat of being institutionalised and kept in prisons when they break the law.  Only once they broke the law a support system kicks in via the policing strategies, which in my view is not good enough. Young persons should be keeping out of trouble and it should be made as easy as possible for parents to do so.

Now Ed Balls introduces a new trick to rid class rooms of unruly pupils, the licence to complain, whereby parents of good pupils can complain that parents of the bad pupils do not do enough to ensure their children behave.

Personally I believe it is wrong to force pupils to spend extended hours per day in class rooms, from the point of not enough recreation, exercise and pupils with learning disabilities will have a hard time to comply. It would be better to shorten the school day and give children more time off, so that they can let off steam instead of strapping them to school desks for about 7 hours per day.

This new policy of the Labour Party’s Minister for Education will drive a significant number of pupils out of the class room with little alternatives to learn elsewhere other than home education or education for disruptive pupils.

It would be kinder to introduce a Grammar School system in the first instance whereby pupils are educated according to their learning speed allowing all a satisfying experience rather than teach at a speed that is only suitable for the 10% of fast or 25% of average learners in each class to leave the rest behind frustrated most of the time.

We should do more to ask parents what their views are, because unfortunately at the meetings we hardly ever see parents from disadvantaged backgrounds but only those who have managed to gain a professional career and can afford excellent child care.

The all LAP meetings at the town hall are very noisy, hundreds of people are crammed into one medium sized room and discuss issues all at the same time and the noise becomes so overbearing that on each table only the person nearest to the note taker can be heard and so no fruitful discussion is possible as the noise level is too high. I made that complaint previously but it has been ignored and those type of meetings keep on happening.

The only useful effect of the “You decide” events is in my view that awareness of budgets is raised and people get to think about those types of issues especially as we see an ever decreasing participation in elections.

I also think because this is a Labour run council and this method is unique to this borough that it can be exploited as party-political stint to attracts votes when we have a general election coming up.  But most positively I felt it was expressed during the meeting that people felt the “East End Life” magazine is not a suitable method to propagate more interest in the matter. I think it was said that only 15% of people in Tower Hamlets use computers and have Internet access compared to Camden’s 75%, so more publicity for local residents via computing was not thought to be appropriate.  I personally feel I get the best response by talking face to face so that people can relate to the issues raised. At election time we see the canvassing teams knocking on doors, a method that is unfortunately often forgotten for other equally important purposes.

I would welcome it if residents that took part in the You decide events would contact me if they feel that their purchases are not being honoured.

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