Cllr with responsibility for adult services “disappointed” to be asked about safeguarding in public council meeting

Bedford Borough Hall Image LDRS
Image: LDRS

A senior Bedford Borough councillor has said he is “disappointed” that safeguarding concerns have been raised at a council meeting.

Councillor Robert Rigby (Conservative, Bromham), the council’s portfolio holder for adult services, was responding to a question from a member of the public during Wednesday’s (28 February) Full Council meeting.

Manjit Jakku asked, “What are portfolio holders able to do to improve the ineffective and uncoordinated safeguarding services provided by the following agencies; social housing, VoiceAbility, East London Foundation Trust, the community safety team at Borough Hall and Bedfordshire Police?”

The council heard that in Ms Jakku’s view they are “adversely affecting” some of the borough’s most vulnerable citizens.

Councillor Rigby replied: “All statutory partners have a safeguarding responsibility which they take seriously. It is led by Adult [Services] and Children’s [Services] for our organisation.

“There is significant partnership working, officers from all teams are aware of their safeguarding duties and take them seriously.

“Within the Community Safety Partnership there is a strong emphasis on identifying and supporting vulnerable people.

“Partnership working relationship with the police has really improved, with much more focus on the town centre and there have been new operations and more arrests are taking place on shoplifting and renewed focus with a town centre working group.”

Ms Jakku added: “There is a woeful level of support and lack of safeguarding for some of the most vulnerable citizens who have mental health issues and learning disabilities – I would like to give some examples.

“It’s taken 10 months for VoiceAbility to process one complaint. They aren’t prioritising according to risk, and wait times are currently 17 months.

“I had a list of 10 people that were in crisis last year. I took this list to a [East London Foundation Trust] manager and she turned me away. That list is now 15.

“I’ve been in touch with cllr Weir regarding the bus station, thank you very much for your input. But we need to continue addressing persistent anti-social behaviour there. Police officers are turning a blind eye in fear of paperwork.

“There is far too little police presence generally in town and people are scared,” she said.

“People with mental health concerns are stating they are not being helped. [One] commented that the police don’t care. Regarding the safety team at Borough Hall, the word around the street is that they are making things worse,” she said.

Councillor Rigby said there are processes in place to investigate complaints. “We can take this up outside of this meeting,” he said. Adult [services] takes safeguarding very, very, seriously and I’m very disappointed to have this come along.

“Please get in contact with me directly and I will look into all the points which you have raised,” he said.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) put Ms Jakku’s statements to Bedfordshire Police.

Inspector Carl Perri said: “The Bedford Community Policing Team have been working tirelessly to tackle anti-social behaviour in and around the town centre.

“Their relentless efforts, which include dedicated high visibility patrols every day, have seen almost 50 arrests so far this year of which 63 charges have been secured against 18 offenders alone.

“A further seven arrests were made this weekend for various offences from serious violence to anti-social behaviour, and officers have submitted eight applications for Criminal Behaviour orders in order to prevent reoffending.

“We are also continuing to work directly with community members and business owners to provide crime prevention advice and equipment, which recently included supplying premises with free SmartWater kits.

“My team and I remain dedicated to tackling ASB in the town and continue to welcome feedback from the community on how best we can ensure Bedford remains a safe and welcome place for all,” he said.

The LDRS also approached VoiceAbility and the East London Foundation Trust for a comment, but they did not respond at the time of publication.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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