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Policing amid cuts and the cold
This cold weather brings the greatest range of experiences for people from the sheer joy of kids out sledging to the absolute misery for those unable to keep warm and safe (such as the homeless) or people genuinely harassed by the few irresponsible snow ballers.
Did you here Julian Clegg on BBC Radio Solent, a couple of weeks ago, talking live to the boy as he seldged down Bolton's Bench at Lyndhurst? Brilliant broadcasting which I hope put a smile on many faces. It did mine.
This really is extreme weather though as evidenced by my neighbour who managed to build and get into a small igloo in his front garden (It wasn't because of a frosty reception at home!).
More evidence, of a less constructive kind though, came from some of the crazy behaviour on our roads. My staff have been out dealing with some situations created by really thoughtless actions. What bit of our warning messages isn't clear?
It seems that people's interpretations of which journeys are really necessary differ massively. By the time a driver has put their car across a road or into a ditch it's a bit late to realise that maybe getting to the cinema or the chippy wasn’t that vital after all. Some people do need to travel though and that includes those in vital jobs such as hospitals, utility services, highways staff and of course my colleague police officers and police staff many of whom have gone to great lengths to get in to work.
Some have walked many miles through the snow and ice to get in to the stations. Others have reported for duty at their local nicks outside the City. Thank you to them all for their commitment and sense of service.
Another effect I notice is the drop off in public demonstrations about the cuts etc. Too cold to protest or maybe last minute shopping or better offers of parties to attend. The right to peaceful protest though is a crucial one and I don't doubt we will be called on again soon to support people's right to protest so I hope they are peaceful and that the season of good will doesn’t wear off too fast.
There is supposed to be an annual post-festive period of mid-winter dismay in January which even the best sales offers maybe wont shift.
Lots of dismay too for the thousands of people stranded at airports. I sympathise with them for their predicament, especially those with young kids who maybe would rather be sledging at Bolton's Bench or elsewhere than trying to entertain themselves in airport terminals.
I sympathise also with the airport managers being criticised for not getting more planes in the air. Maybe we just have to stop assuming so many people can fly so often to so many places at any time of year. The terminal queues don't look much like a credit crunch to me. I think we sometimes expect those providing public or private services to be able to overcome any issue. Of course I am one such person providing a public service in Southampton and I would never want public expectations to be anything other than challenging to meet, but realistic. We can and must always do better even if it's with the smaller budgets as expected and announced last week. We are well into the planning, and now some of the delivery, for how we manage the cuts.
One of the changes we are making in Southampton (which actually wasn’t directly about cuts) will be to increase the number of officers working on investigations in our neighbourhoods and specialise our emergency response more so it's done by smaller teams but more efficiently.
Overall officer numbers on response and neighbourhoods stay the same. We will still make our response times for the urgent calls but we'll get better at investigating crime and keeping people informed about what's happening if they have been a victim.
The government has announced different targets for health service including getting rid of ambulance attendance targets in favour of measures about how well people are treated for their injury or illness. How good we are at catching criminals, supporting victims and dealing with things that matter locally I think are better measures than whether we get somewhere in 15 minutes (success) or 16 minutes (failure).
It was good also to see in the government announcement that funding for PCSOs remains for next 2 years. They provide an important part of our service and many are to be seen out and about walking the snowy streets of our neighbourhoods. My thanks to them and all officers and police staff for their hard work in 2010 and to their families for supporting them in what they do for Southampton.