Councillors voice disappointment at police “no show” at town centre meeting

Police on the beat on Bedford High Street. Image: Bedfordshire Police/Facebook
Police on the beat on Bedford High Street. Image: Bedfordshire Police/Facebook

Bedford borough councillors have expressed their “disappointment” that Bedfordshire Police didn’t attend a meeting on town centre issues.

But the police said “other demands” meant that community officers were unable to attend the meeting.

The borough council’s Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee was due to have an update from a community policing inspector yesterday (June 6) about recent actions taken against shoplifting and other town centre issues.

But instead a written report was read out by Sarah Stevens, manager for community safety and resilience at the council.

Councillor Charles Royden (Lib Dem, Brickhill) asked: “When did we invite the police to come to this meeting? Have they had good notice?”

Ms Stevens said she sent an invitation to the chief inspector in March.

Councillor Royden said: “So the police have had quite a good length of time to give this [meeting] the priority it deserves, and they haven’t come.

“I think that’s really disappointing because anti-social drinking and shoplifting is really serious. That’s why we put it down as a priority on our agenda for this meeting.

“It’s really disappointing that they haven’t come to this meeting,” he repeated.

Councillor Jonathan Abbott (Lib Dem, Clapham & Oakley) added: “With the police being a key part of the strategy, it’s very disappointing they’ve chosen not to appear.

“Sarah is having to speak about what the police are doing rather than the police being here and telling us themselves.

“So I’m expressing my disappointment that they haven’t come here tonight to tell us what they’re up to.

“All the other agencies who are involved with it [are here], residents need to feel reassured that everyone is working together, and we’re not seeing that,” he said.

Committee chair, councillor Colleen Atkins (Labour, Harpur) added: “We’ve got such a wide range on the partnership, it’s just a shame that we have that empty seat.”

A Bedfordshire Police spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the Bedford community team was unable to attend due to other demands.

They added that a “full comprehensive” update was provided to the council by chief inspector Grant Maxted and inspector Carl Perri, which covered issues such as resourcing, shoplifting and ongoing operations tackling antisocial behaviour.

“Since January this year, the Bedford community policing team has conducted targeted enforcement against prolific and repeat shoplifting offenders, resulting in 36 arrests, over 90 charges and the application of eight community behaviour orders (CBO),” they said.

“Operation Highgate involves plans to ‘improve feelings of safety and improve public confidence resulting in increased footfall in the town’, and has so far resulted in over 90 arrests for various antisocial behaviour offences.”

FInally, they added that the force has offered to attend the next meeting in person.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter