Labour opposition as Mayor announces support for water cannon on Budget Day. Labour letter to Home Secretary Theresa May on proposals…Plus:Question on Met Police document shredding….Bromley hit back over ‘parking targets’ allegations…Lambeth council statement…Drivers’ warning shot to councils
BORIS JOHNSON has announced plans to bring water cannon onto the streets of London – despite the London Assembly recently voting against it.
Now Labour have written to Home Secretary Theresa May opposing Boris Johnson’s proposals.
Boris Johnson told the Assembly’s Budget day question time he would write to Home Secretary Theresa May asking her to licence their use in the capital.
Labour say the mayor is planning on buying three retired German water-cannon at a cost of up to £300,000 within weeks.
The London Assembly recently voted against the purchase of water cannon by all Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green AMs, along with several Conservative members.
Joanne McCartney AM, London Assembly Labour police and crime spokesperson, said: “20 out of 25 Assembly members – from all parties – voted against their purchase only last month.
“I’m deeply concerned that the Mayor is rushing the purchase of water cannon without a proper public debate.
“There is still confusion over the reasons behind the purchase of water cannon and exactly how the process of their deployment will work.
“To announce this on Budget Day is typical of Boris’ slapdash approach to issues of crucial importance to Londoners.
“It is disgraceful that the mayor has not even read the London Assembly police and crime committee report on water cannon. “It clearly stated there was contradictory evidence on their effectiveness and that the case had not been made.
“20 out of 25 Assembly members – from all parties – voted against their purchase only last month.”
The Labour party statement says the Metropolitan Police have identified three instances in the last 10 years when they may have used water cannon.
“Boris says he would have not wanted to see them used in at least one of those situations – the 2010 student protests.
“Boris wants three old German water cannon as an ‘interim solution’ ahead of the government’s decision on their long-term use across Britain.
“It’s not clear why the Mayor and the Met believe they need water cannon by the summer. “The recent Association of Chief Police Officers report said there was “no specific intelligence” that disorder was anticipated.
“Since 2010 we’ve lost 3,111 police officers and 2,279 PCSOs. “Water cannon are no substitute for a visible uniformed presence on our streets.
“The Mayor is trying to bounce this decision through in a matter of weeks and Londoners are being given virtually no chance to express their views.
“Such a monumental shift in policing needs a proper public debate.”
The statement adds: “The Metropolitan Police’s own review into their response to the August 2011 riots “Four days in August” stated: ‘It is the opinion of this review that had it been available for use, it would have been considered as a tactical option during this disorder.
‘However it is unlikely to have been an appropriate and practical option owing to the speed and agility of the disorder.’
“Following the student protests of December 2010, the Mayor told the London Assembly: “It is certainly my view -that we are not instinctively in favour of ratcheting up the panoply of implements of crowd control in this city.
“This is a free city which has a great tradition of free speech. “We do not want to see any kind of arms race with protesters. “At the moment there are no plans to go, for instance, for water cannon.” Mayor’s Question Time Dec 2010.”
“This does not speak to me of ‘broad public backing’ for the introduction of water cannon in London” – Joanne McCartney AM
In the wake of the meeting Joanne McCartney has written to Theresa May urging her to refuse the Mayor’s request for permission to licence water cannon before the summer.
“In his letter Mayor Johnson states that following both the professional advice of the Metropolitan Police Service and the ‘broad public backing’ for water cannon it is his decision to support the request from the police for you to authorise water cannon’s use on the UK mainland and to support the Commissioner’s request for funding.
“I do not feel that the ‘broad public backing’ the Mayor speaks of is as strong or as clear cut as he states, as in his letter he has omitted certain key facts.
“The London Assembly voted against the purchase of water cannon by all Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green AMs, along with several Conservative members stating that
‘We do not believe that an adequate case has been made to support the introduction of water cannon in 2014/15.’
“The majority of members of London Assembly’s police and crime committee (PCC), whose statutory duty it is to scrutinise the work of the Mayor’s office for policing and crime (MOPAC) submitted their response to the Mayor’s public engagement concluding that:
‘There is no convincing argument for the Mayor’s decision to fund water cannon for deployment by the summer. ‘The Met is pressing ahead for an ‘interim solution without clear justification for its urgency. ‘In doing so, it is preventing and avoiding a full and proper national public debate about water cannon.’
“This response was based on three public meetings which were held with the Mayor and his deputy, the MPS and expert witnesses to gather evidence regarding the proposal. .
“In announcing his decision to support the introduction of water cannon at the London Assembly on March 19th 2014 the Mayor told the Assembly he had not read or considered the police and crime committee’s submission.
“We feel that in ignoring the PCC’s response the Mayor is unreasonable and that the Mayor has been deficient in his duties to Londoners. “In short, he has not fully taken all relevant evidence into account when reaching his decision.
“Alongside our own objections to the introduction of water cannon, the Mayor’s letter to you also does not refer to the significant objections his own office received to MOPAC’s consultation.
“This showed that 98 per cent (2,547) of the respondents to his consultation were opposed to the introduction of water cannon. “MOPAC was also in receipt of a petition from 37,000 people opposed to water cannon.
“In addition, he fails to note that just over 5,000 people signed a petition to yourself which was handed to the deputy mayor at the public meeting on February 17th.
“He also omits to note that his office received a further two email petitions, each with 2,000 signatories.
“This does not speak to me of ‘broad public backing’ for the introduction of water cannon in London or indeed any other part of the UK mainland. “What it does indicate is that the case has clearly not yet been made.”
“I once again enclose a copy of the London Assembly police and crime committee’s report ‘Why the Met’s case doesn’t wash’.
”I trust that you, unlike the Mayor, will take this report into consideration prior to making your decision on whether to licence water cannon.”
(Source: London Assembly Labour group press releases).
QUESTION ON DOCUMENT SHREDDING
Joanne McCartney AM, London Assembly Labour police and crime spokesperson, was planning to quiz Boris Johnson at today’s question time over allegations surrounding the shredding of police documents.
Responding to allegations that the Met Police shredded large amounts of documents about the Lawrence case and undercover policing over a two day period Joanne McCartney, who chairs the London Assembly police and crime committee, said:
“These latest revelations are deeply worrying and may indicate that there was a concerted effort by Met Police officers to destroy evidence.
“I will raise this with Boris Johnson at Mayor’s question time at City Hall. “Undercover operations, which are so intrusive, deserve the utmost levels of probity, authorisation and monitoring. “It is incumbent on the police that they protect any information on such cases and are fully open to public scrutiny.
“This latest incident pre-dates the Mayor’s time in office, but I will be seeking urgent assurances that he is personally holding the Met to account as he is ultimately responsible for their oversight and operation.
“We need to ensure that all information is released and that there is full disclosure from the Met. “Any officers involved in this activity must be held to account, including any who may have retired.
The statement added that the Ellison Review found that in relation to mass shredding in 2003 some “material evidence relating to the issue of corruption” could not be located by the Met.
“The report added: “It is clear that there are significant areas where relevant Metropolitan Police records should exist but cannot be found.” A 2012 review by the Met was “another example” of the force “providing misleading reassurance to the family and to the public”. The Met claimed it found “nothing new” – but it actually “held material of some potential importance”.
Joanne McCartney is the Labour London Assembly Member for Enfield and Haringey. She chairs the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee.(Source: London Assembly Labour group press release)
NOTE: In July 2012 Home Secretary Teresa May commissioned Mark Ellison QC to conduct a review examining allegations of corruption surrounding what she called “the initial, deeply flawed, investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence.”
She also asked Mr Ellison to examine whether the Metropolitan Police had evidence of corruption that it did not disclose to the Macpherson Inquiry, the public inquiry held in 1998 headed by Sir William Macpherson, that examined the original Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) investigation into the Stephen Lawrence murder which concluded the force was “institutionally racist”.
It also recommended changes so the double jeopardy rule should be changed in murder cases to allow a retrial upon new and compelling evidence. This became law in 2005.
BROMLEY HIT BACK OVER ‘PARKING TARGETS’ ALLEGATIONS
Bromley council have denied claims made in a BBC TV programme that they set targets for revenue from parking enforcement income.
In a fiercely-worded statement responding to the programme Bromley say they have NEVER set such targets.
The statement follows a BBC London Inside Out programme which said London councils were to be investigated over their parking enforcement after evidence suggests they have been illegally setting targets.
BBC Inside Out London said they had seen contracts from Lambeth, Bromley and Hackney councils which appear to set targets for tickets but added that all three councils said they do not have targets and the number issued annually has fallen.
Inside Out claimed that in Bromley’s contract, with enforcement company VINCI, there is a baseline of 72,000 tickets and for every PCN over that number the company gets a performance payment of up to £20 a ticket.
In its response Bromley said the council was asked by the BBC to reply to the allegations in the programme,but the BBC chose to include only 12 words of its statement – and to date, the council has not received any correspondence from central Government.
The council’s full un-edited statement reads
“The council’s parking enforcement contract commenced in 2006, predating the statutory guidance by two years.
“The council did consider the guidance when it opted to extend the existing contract in 2010, but concluded that maintaining the existing successful contract was the best option available.
“This decision has given us time to evaluate the model contract advocated in the guidance, which very few authorities had adopted at the time.
“It is important to note that the council has never set targets for revenue from parking enforcement income.
“The purpose of specifying a number of penalty charge notices (PCNs) is to monitor the work of our contractor, and it is only one of a number of indicators used to measure performance.
“The number of PCNs expected is kept under review, and has actually been reduced in recent years.
“The approach taken by the council and its willingness to reduce indicative PCN numbers within the contract is a matter of fact and shows that the authority is clearly motivated by its statutory duties and its objectives of maintaining a turnover of parking spaces and reducing traffic congestion, as set out in its parking strategy, and not by raising revenue.
“We can confirm that the council’s lawyers remain content with the integrity of contract and that no changes are planned to it ahead of its maturity in 2016, at which point any relevant statutory guidance which might exist at the time will of course be considered as part of the re-tendering process.”
“It was not made clear in the programme that the specified number of penalty charge notices has actually been reduced in the period of the contract (from 72,000 PCNs p.a. to 66,0000 PCNs p.a.), which further demonstrates that this was not about targets for revenue but about meeting the objectives set out in the council’s parking strategy
“As London’s largest borough, with more miles of road than any council to patrol, the fourth highest car ownership per head of population, and a thriving sub-regional shopping centre in the form of The Glades, it could be expected that Bromley would issue more parking tickets than most other boroughs.
“The reverse is true. “In 2012/13, Bromley issued fewer parking tickets than 20 of the other 32* London boroughs with only 12 London boroughs issuing fewer.
“In proportion to our population, Bromley issued 293 PCNs per 1,000 residents. Only seven boroughs issued fewer in proportion, whilst 25 issued more.
“In the same year only 743 Bromley parking tickets (0.8 per cent, less than the London borough average of 1.1 pc) went to the independent appeals service (PATAS).
“Of these, only 36 pc of these appeals were granted, again a significantly better record than the London borough average, almost 50 pc.
“All of these facts combined clearly demonstrate that Bromley’s approach to parking enforcement has never been about targets for revenue but all about meeting the objectives set out in the council’s publicly available parking strategy
“The parking strategy and the annual report can be viewed by following the linkswww.bromley.gov.uk/parking.”
In a statement dated January 25th Lambeth council – without directly commenting on the programme – said they had cut the number of parking tickets issued by more than 25 per cent, which equals around 63,000 less, over the last four years.
Lambeth added that they had issued 250,000 penalty charge notices in the financial year 2009/10 – but that figure is falling to an expected 187,000 in 2013/14.
Cllr Imogen Walker, cabinet member for environment and sustainability, said: “Parking control is an essential service which makes sure the streets are clear for traffic, including emergency vehicles, to get around the borough.
“Our focus is on providing excellent customer services and we are introducing new technology, such as pay by phone, which makes it easier for our customers to park.
“As a result we have been able to scale back enforcement in many areas and dramatically reduce the number of penalty charge notices we issue.
“We have done this by working with residents and businesses and using more strategic, focused enforcement when it comes to tackling traffic problems.
“We are working closely with our parking enforcement service provider, and continuing to ensure our roads are kept safe and clear.”
A major factor has been giving drivers five-minutes leeway before tickets are issued, and allowing parking wardens more ability to be lenient, added Lambeth.
(Sources: Bromley council press release, Lambeth council statement))
(NOTE: The programme said the Traffic Management Act states that performance and rewards or penalties should never be based on the number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) issued, and that authorities should not set targets for revenue.)
BLOCKED DRAINS AND FLOODED ROADS – Drivers warning shot to councils
Attempts to convince council-tax-paying motorists that ponds and lakes on UK roads this winter are a one-off event fail to hold water with more than two thirds of their members, say the AA.
While 68 pc of 23,700 AA-Populus survey respondents are prepared to accept that extreme weather has contributed to roads turning into watercourses, 67pc blame councils for not maintaining drains well enough.
And 37pc of the sample feel strongly that road authorities have let them down compared to 23pc who strongly argue that relentlessly bad weather is the reason why ponds and pools of water have replaced potholes as this winter’s main menace for drivers.
“Disturbingly, the survey suggests that flooding on roads is now becoming accepted as part of the driving landscape in the UK” say the AA. It finds that 71pc of the AA members support the view – 24pc strongly – that “there are one or two notorious spots where big puddles develop on the road but everyone local knows about them and just deals with them”.
The AA concludes that a majority of its members are prepared to cut local authorities some slack due to the amount of water on roads this winter, but councils’ cards are marked if poor drainage persists in the future.
Consequently, the AA will carry out the same survey next winter to see if its members feel that the state of roads has improved or remains prone to flooding.
AA president Edmund King said: “Inevitably, after this winter’s appalling weather, there will be an enquiry into the resilience of the UK’s transport network.
“Part of that will have to include road drainage. “The Pitt review of the flooding in the summer of 2007 found that there was a lack of data about drainage systems and who was responsible for them.
“It is worrying that nearly three quarters of AA members say that, when it rains heavily, they know of stretches of local road almost guaranteed to become water-logged.
“If they are well-known, why haven’t road authorities dealt with them – before an unwary non-local driver comes to grief?”
AA-Populus survey, conducted between 20-27 January 2014 (Source: AA press release)