by Ian Shires on 17 April, 2021
Extra Police are to be drafted into the Willenhall area following questions raised by Cllr Ian Shires to Walsall’s Police Commander Andy Parsons at Thursday’s Questions and Answer session at Thursday’s Scrutiny Overview Committee meeting.
Ian’s questions were based on concerns about Neighbourhood Policing raised by residents across Willenhall North and Short Heath with Ian and his colleague Cllr Dan Barker Lib Dem Councillors for Willenhall North and Short
“Residents have told us that when they get home from work they wanted to feel safe in their homes and secure in their community, many have told us just how frustrated they feel when trying to contact the Police either by phone on 101 or on Live Chat on West Midlands Police Website.” Said Ian.
It soon became obvious that the reasons for these concerns lay behind the low – level of priority given by the Force to Neighbourhood Policing in general. Responding to Ian’s questions Chief Superintendent Andy Parsons referred to the fact that across the whole of Walsall there were 80 Police Officers assigned to Neighbourhood Policing. The population of Walsall is around 272,000.
Neighbourhood Policing Teams worked a 3:3:3 shift system. Three days on early, three days on late, three days off. In the West Locality of Willenhall and Darlaston that means that whenever the Willenhall Team is on days off, the Darlaston Team covers the whole of Willenhall and Darlaston and vice versa when Darlaston are on days off. During the night the area is covered by Response Teams from across the West Midlands.
Like local councils, the Police have been subjected to vicious budget cuts by the Government. The west Midlands Force has seen £175 million stripped from its budget which has resulted in the loss of over 2000 officers.
The Government made a manifesto promise in 2019 to recruit an extra 20,000 Police Officers nationally by 2023. Responding to a question about what this would mean for Walsall over the next couple of years, members of the Committee were told that Walsall would get 15 this year and 5 next year.
Further questions about what were the main priorities for the Police across Walsall as a whole the Commander of Walsall’s Police Force pointed towards tacking organised crime, violent crime and exploitation of all kinds. No mention was made of Neighbourhood Policing (to be fair, on the plus side, the West Midlands Force is one of a dwindling number of Police Forces which still has Neighbourhood Policing Units).
The following is a transcript of Ian’s speech at Thursday’s meeting and the Question and Answer session and the meeting can be viewed via the following Link: https://youtu.be/c46zFN_rvNw
Questions to Walsall Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Andy Parsons:
Full text of questions from Cllr Ian Shires, Willenhall North Ward. Walsall MBC:
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First let me thank you for giving up your time this evening to come before us to answer questions Andy – can I call you by your first name?
I have a number of questions to ask, so rather than put them individually, I’ve drawn them together as a composite question.
In order to put things into context let me begin with a quote from Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Dickens published this in 1859 based on life in the late 18th Century against a backdrop of the French Revolution. There are those of us who would say that Dickens could have been describing the despair the many feel today when coping with life during the Pandemic.
It’s brought out the best in folk who have come out in their thousands across Walsall to help those less fortunate than themselves in any way they can. They’ve come from all walks of life, from across all faith groups and those with no faith. From all cultures across this multicultural community of ours. Many will be from amongst the ranks of your officers.
Carers or recipients of care, whoever they are, they all have one thing in common, when they go back home to their families they want to feel safe and secure in their communities. That’s about it. It’s not much to ask for is it?
So Andy, what words of comfort can you give to my constituents from Coppice Farm in the North West of my patch, through Sneyd Park and The Hamlet, Allens Rough and The Beacon, Wood Lane, The Hawthorne’s, Forest Gate and The Broadway so that they can rest assured that whilst they sleep your Police teams will be dealing with the small but growing minority who roam our neighbourhoods trying to break into homes, steal car and vans that are relied on in order that hard working ordinary folk than pay bills and put food on the table.
What crumbs of comfort can you give them when they get home from, what is in many cases a difficult day’s work and are looking to relax in the comfort of their homes and gardens, that that peace and quiet they crave for isn’t going to be shattered by some foul mouthed lout on an off-road motorbike or quad-bike determined to make life for them. That they are not going to be intimidated by a group of youths with nothing better to do with their time but to fling missiles and foul abuse at them in their homes or worse still, throw a punch at them as they work in their corner shop or indeed be faced with a group of machete wielding young men breaking into and making off with the car that someone relies on to get to work?
What guarantee can you give them that when they dial 101 or go on West Midlands Police Live Chat that they will be taken seriously and not be left hanging on till cut off or left feeling like they are the ones in the wrong? Or worse still, if faced with a threat to life and limb and they dial 999 that they don’t have to wait five days for a response!
None of what I have said is fanciful nonsense. Everything I have said can be substantiated by a fact check with any one of a number of constituents and I haven’t even touched on the issue of cars being driven far too fast not only putting the drivers lives in danger but also other road users and pedestrians at risk, almost with impunity for those of all ages who indulge in this madness.
I know times are tough for all those in public services. As Councillors we have had to face down in excess of £200 million in cuts to our budgets. As a Force West Midlands Police has not been spared from cuts in its budget of upwards of £175 million, but surely the time has come to ensure those who pay the wages can feel safe and secure in the knowledge that it is they and their the issues which concern them who are indeed number 1 on your Forces priority list.
Published and promoted by Stuart Hodges on behalf of Ian Shires and Dan Barker all at 33 Stretton Road, Willenhall WV12 5EJ