Muswell Hill police station and the Wood Green kiosk

Had meeting with Sir Ian Blair to discuss a number of issues around policing. The number one for us is the possibility that our police stations in Haringey may be ‘reorganised’ as they are not ‘fit for purpose’.

So I use the opportunity to get assurances that nothing will close (having spent so many years campaigning to get the front counter open at Muswell Hill) before equal or better alternatives are put in place.

Sir Ian said he would like to know what people think – so I am doing my best to find out for him! I suggested a survey – and he immediately suggested a meeting between myself, himself, our local Commander Simon O’Brian and someone from Met Estates to establish their ‘vision’ first.

Of course “equal or better alternative” can mean a lot of different things to different people; for example, if someone believes in heavily centralised services a few super-police stations, they could say that means axing the local stations is ok as the alternative is – they would say – better. Now, that’s not a view I’d agree with – policing works best when it is based in the local community. So – we need to keep the pressure up despite this assurance. “Equal or better” must mean local policing, locally delivered. So – that means a petition amongst other things. (You can get a petition form from my main website).

I also tackled him about the police kiosk in Wood Green which was a great idea putting police on the street right at the crucial spot – but it was hardly ever open. And unless it was manned, and reliable – people would never feel confident to rely on it. Now it faces being demolished. It would be much better to keep it – and put it to full use. Sir Ian didn’t know about it but has promised to investigate. (More details on that on my main website too).

And some good news on another subject – I have been nominated for a New Statesman 2006 New Media Award in the “Elected representative” category.

Iraq, Iraq, Iraq

First panic of the day – the first batch of our election address needs to be bundled and got to Royal Mail. Neil (agent) phones around the ‘gang’ and we all flood in to finish off the last envelopes. All is well – except it takes Neil three and a half hours round trip to get it there.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (lot of western allusion today) I get my spurs on and go canvassing with Jonathan Marciano from the Ham & High. As ever, we are looking for Labour ‘switchers’ as I guess that will be the story of this seat. But it is hard to find anyone who is not out and out Lib Dem (of the very few people in that time of the morning).

In the end Jonathan decides he will have to make do with a photo of me on the doorstep of a Lib Dem supporter. So we talk on the step and as we are talking it turns out that he did indeed used to be a Labour supporter. It was the LibDem work locally that first brought us into the frame (cracked pavements and rubbish collection etc) – and combined with Iraq … If you can’t keep a street clean – how can you run the country – I always say!

We do bits of interviews as we go. My successful campaigns for the 603 bus route and the police front counter reopening at Muswell Hill police station are touched upon but the main issue coming up on the doorsteps is Iraq. Crime, education (particularly school places) and health also feature.

When people start talking about why they are voting and switching it is about the sort of world people want. It matters how you behave. It matters if you wage an illegal war. It matters if your civil liberties are taken away. It matters if what makes our society decent and caring is trashed.

Whew – glad to get that off my chest.

Rush home to try and get my emails done. It is absolute mayhem trying to deal with everything that is coming in. I am glad that the volume of stuff has exploded in size – I think. Rush back to HQ after a few hours of inbox control and to help get our next leaflet our to deliverers in Hornsey and then off canvassing again with Alexis.

Very good canvassing here and more posters. People are very interested in talking – which means I cover less ground – but it I feel an important part of the democratic process for candidates to have to meet and talk to the public.

Actually go home quite early at around 8pm to read the Liberal Democrat manifesto properly and start to think about the hustings the first one of which is to be Churches of Muswell Hill on Sunday afternoon.

Muswell Hill police station

I go to visit the volunteers at Muswell Hill Police station. I cannot explain how fantastic it feels to have worked with local people to make this happen – to get the front counter open again. It’s what we all wanted – but the amount of effort, campaigning, arguments it took …

But now, it is open four days a week and rising. I met three of the volunteers. Diane Dodd (the volunteer director) and the volunteers themselves are doing such a fantastic job. There is a good turnout of members of the public coming to make use of the service. And the best thing is the re-engagement of community and the force that polices it.

Power from sugar

Mayor’s Question Time. I lead the charge today on fare evasion in London. 150 million fares have been dodged since Ken took office. Millions of pounds lost – with revenue inspectors only catching 1 in around 800 dodgers and us honest citizens having our fares banged up above inflation to help the Mayor out of his dodgy financial situation.

As ever, Ken gets annoyed about my inquisition and says you have to expect to lose some money. Only gets really cross when I point out to him that his new bendy buses are getting known as the ‘free bus’ because it is so easy to jump on and off without paying.

At this point came an unexpected endorsement from the Mayor – who said: “Hopefully you are going to Parliament so I will not have to put up with your questions much longer.”

He loves me really…

Later in the day, had an interesting meeting with British Sugar. I know. When I saw it in my diary I thought why am I having a meeting about sugar. But did you know – you can turn it into a bio-fuel? Perhaps the way forward for energy renewables?

Clearly hitting a brick wall of ‘can’t do’ at Transport for London who though interested appear immobilised on the issue, British Sugar have turned to us to help. I am intrigued as to what the obstacles really are as it seemed a pretty good thing for the Mayor to be seen to be getting involved in. Oh well – a bit of publicity and pressure and who knows?

Then a rush round meetings in the event. First, Hornsey Housing Forum as I want to add my two penny’s worth on the future of council housing in Haringey. The recommendation to Haringey Council’s Executive will be to transfer the housing to an ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation). Of course it will be sold in the ballot that this is the only option viable if Haringey wants the money the government is offering. (It’s really a form of blackmail as the government will only hand over the money if people chose one of its preferred options for the future of council housing). But the small print will say – yes – but you have to gain two star status for the housing service to be eligible for the dosh anyway. There’s always a sting!

Then a Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Residents’ Association meeting. Diane Dodd – who heads the volunteer operation for Muswell Hill Police Station – is there to update everyone on how the newly reopened front counter is doing and how she is working to extend the hours.

Fortis Green by-election

Knocking on doors in the Fortis Green by-election.

It seems pretty warm and friendly on the doorstep to me. I think our long campaign and work on both the 603 bus and the reopening of Muswell Hill police station have left a favourable impression. That view is further helped by Labour trying to claim these as their victories. Ask the original resident who started the bus campaign how much Labour MPs and the Labour council helped him!

As for the police station – at one point they were doing everything they could to stop it. I remember being told by a senior policeman that Labour were threatening all sorts if they didn’t stop me chairing a huge public meeting on the issue. Rather than lobbying the police to get the police station’s front counter reopened, Labour were trying behind the scenes to derail the campaign completely.

Anyway – polling day next Thursday 11th November. I have a fundamental belief that people recognise the real situation and won’t be fooled. We’ll soon see…

Policing in London

Today was the Met Police Commissioner’s conference where senior bods in the Met (and the Metropolitan Police Authority) gathered to ‘build on our success’ – i.e. plot and plan the way forward.

Sir John Stevens gave his usual stirring story for boys (and girls) speech. He is an absolute master of rallying his troops and motivating them. He’s really more of a politician than most the politicians I know – and better at it.

Myself and local Haringey Commander, Stephen Bloomfield, got an honorary named mention for Muswell Hill police station (see my blog entry for 27 September).

There was much success for him. This included the new “Safer Neighbourhoods” program. Currently it applies in three wards in each London borough, putting six police personnel on our streets, ring-fenced from removal for any other policing purpose.

However, the roll-out of the program faces funding problems. And without a pan-London roll out, there’s a risk that crime is displaced to areas outside the scheme.

Next was a speech from the Chair of the MPA, Len Duval. I have a lot of time for Len – voted for him to be Chair in fact – and time is what you needed today. Len had been given a slot of 15 minutes. Now what you have to understand about the Met is it runs like clockwork to time (if only our rail system did the same). Len made good points – and then remade them – and then veered off at tangents – and then made them again. The upshot being that he overran his slot by about 25 minutes – thus throwing the whole schedule into disarray and losing his audience entirely. Hope someone close to him whispers in his ear for next time.

Muswell Hill police station celebration

Hurrah! I am at Muswell Hill Police Station at the re-opening of the police front counter.

It has taken five and one half years to get it reopened – but today is the day.

It was a fabulous feeling to see the reality, to meet the volunteers who have been trained to help staff the counter, and to have the Met Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens there to cut the ribbon.

It was good to hear him reiterate the importance and significance of the police station in our community. The local police commander, Stephen Bloomfield, also positively beamed with pleasure at the way things have got better in Haringey.

It is both his and Sir John’s real commitment to community policing and engagement which – added to our long campaign and the community’s support – delivered the wonderful occasion today.

Even Sir John allowed both himself and his uniformed officers to have a glass of champagne. The Met is really chilling out…

Parking in London

Lying in bed watching BBC news. Blow me if they are not doing a whole package about parking as a result of the announcement of the London Assembly’s investigation into parking enforcement in London.

I telephone the Beeb to ask if they can give out a number or email as they say there are hundreds of people contacting them with stories of unfairness etc. By the time I get over to the conference centre and go down to my press officer – BBC at conference are onto it and I do a number of interviews, TV and radio about the scrutiny. It would seem that both London residents and the media are very exited about this one. If you’ve got views yourself – let me know through my feedback form.

Later in the day, I put in a card to speak in the policing debate. You never know if you will be called, but you have to be in the auditorium just in case. In fact, I am called straight after the motion has been moved. My speech is really about the need for local response from local police to local people. I go through some of the work I have done on trying to get the Met to set up a system of call answering phone calls to the police locally. Far too many people say they can’t get through to their local police station at the moment. Finish on a happy ending – that our campaign to re-open Muswell Hill police station’s front counter has succeeded – Sir John Stevens (the Met’s top cop) is coming to do the honours on Monday.

Muswell Hill police station

Meet Diane Dodd, the new Met Police volunteer recruitment officer who is now stationed in Muswell Hill police station tasked with getting the front counter opened.  Having campaigned against its closure as soon as it was closed alongside local residents – I am thrilled to bits that we  are about to have our wishes realised. I handed over a further fifteen names of local people who have contacted her about becoming a police volunteer. Diane will be contacting them in the next few days. 

I had a little tour of the new facilities, the new front counter and office. It’s no palace – but I am convinced the integration of public and police through volunteering is a good thing.

The first wave of nineteen volunteers are well on their way to opening day. Diane Dodd is just completing the vetting and if all is well, the front counter will open on or around August 3rd. She is keen for the volunteers to get their feet under the table quietly for a few weeks before the official opening later in the year. Sir John Stevens, the Met Police Commissioner – who has backed this campaign and asked to open the front counter with me – will do so in September at an official opening. Hurrah!

Policing Haringey

Meeting with Haringey’s police commander, Steven Bloomfield. Lots on the menu to discuss. First and foremost – the re-opening of Muswell Hill police station front counter. At last, the Volunteer Coordinator is employed and getting feet under the table. I have written to her to suggest we meet up as I have a lot more people who have volunteered since the original ones I collected over a year ago and of whom, many filled in the Met application form (not easy – Met forms are a nightmare and enough to put off any but the keenest at the first hurdle). Sir John Stevens (Met Police Commissioner who has expressed a desire to open the front counter with me as soon as possible) and I am anxious to comply. Yes, Sir! Hopefully, it will open in July – or thereabouts.

Then we discuss the police kiosk in Wood Green. Given the constant refusal to reopen Highgate police station, I have been nagging for some permanent base for police here – to no avail. A kiosk might be the answer. Steven says that the main problem is because it only opens certain hours, people complain that it is always closed. He says they never write in to say how wonderful it is – when it is open. Of course, there is an answer – open it longer hours. That battle goes on.

We have our usual skirmish over my work and any adverse publicity it has brought to his door. Recently, my work on unreported crime which was based on a crime survey distributed to every household in Hornsey & Wood Green found that out of 1119 people who had been a victim of or witness to a crime 421 did not report it. I presented this at the last full meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority and it found support from Sir John Stevens amongst others. The work will now continue to make this a performance indicator for the Met. However, Steven was cross because although it was bad – it was better than the year before and coincided timewise with an improvement in crime detection in Haringey. Well – we all have our jobs to do – and mine is to improve matters where people tell me they need improving. Police resources are targetted where crime is reported – which would explain why it is important for people to feel that it is worthwhile to report crime, however minor, to the police. The vast majority of people who did not report a crime did not do so because they either thought the police would do nothing (often true) or they couldn’t get through to their local police station!

We then meandered over my work on Stop & Search and a variety of individual cases that obviously, I am not going to discuss here. I like Steven and I think the police in Haringey do a really good job over all – but there are still huge unmet needs across the borough – so no doubt our future meetings will continue to be interesting.