Dear Southwark News,
With both national and local news full of knife attack stories, and Southwark being very prominent in a number of them, I fully support the Southwark News plans for a Knife Crime Summit and would very much like to involved. I think there can be a clear separation in terms of strategy between the "stick" and the "carrot" and we need clarity of position in both of these areas. I support the current Met Police's "Operation Blunt 2" and, like Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse, that it proves as successful as Operation Trident has been and the early signs I think are positive. I fully supported the Labour Government's tough sentencing policy of gun possession and the current policy of longer sentencing for murders with 20 and 30 year terms being given out by the Courts. I also think that longer and consistent sentences for knife possession should follow accepting the difficulties in knives, unlike guns, having legitimate uses. But as one police officer reported to me last week he found a man with a knife hidden in his buttocks which suggested that he perhaps was not a catering student on his way to class! In terms of this current Administration in the Town Hall we still believe that the lack of a strong coherent strategic view of serious violent crime and how to tackle it is a serious flaw and can have the effect of lessening the impact, or even undermining, some excellent work currently being undertaken on the ground. Last year we raised this 3 times in Council Assembly and three times were voted down. That I believe is a serious mistake! On a more positive note the Council has run a very good in my view "Enough is Enough" poster campaign and in the past had an equally good campaign highlighting the consequences of carrying a knife, ie the risk of being a victim as well as a perpetrator, with split screen images of a family at a graveside and a young man in a prison cell. perhaps this campaign could be resurrected at this present time? We do need to up our game in terms of the "carrot" elements of youth engagement, be it educational, sporting, cultural and political. The Government have provided, and are providing more, significant for youth activities and a promise of a "youth offer". Mayor Livingstone committed to significant funding for youth provision in London which, as far as I am aware, Mayor Johnston has not re-committed to yet? Southwark Council puts a lot of resources into youth provision in the borough and I have been involved, in my past role as Chair of Education and Children s Services Scrutiny Committee in a significant review of existing needs and provision for young people involving meeting lots of dedicated and hard working youth providers and lots of very positive young people! My colleague and new Chair Councillor Barrie Hargrove will hopefully be taking the Report and it's recommendations to the Executive in the autumn, the key recommendation being that the views and needs of young people need to be moved up the political agenda and we need to more closely match what young people want with what we can reasonably provide! With a Labour Government, a Tory Mayor and a Lib Dem/Tory Council there is lots of scope for political posturing and arguing as we clearly have differences in our approach but we need to continue to work together to bring about a short term and longer term solution to this problem and me and my Labour Group are committed to doing that with anyone who wants to achieve the same end!
Councillor John Friary
Labour Group Spokesperson for Community Safety
Wednesday night's Council Assembly was different from the norm as we actually made a decision, and a cross party one at that!, to agree to get the much needed redevelopment of the Aylesbury Estates moving. Whilst there is nothing that can be said about the detail it was clearly the best deal available and it had to be agreed when it was!
Of course that was not good enough for The Leader Nick Stanton who, despite the unanimous support, dusted of his blame the Labour Government for everything speech ( to Labour cries of "change the record!") . He has had to change his one and only speech slightly and omit criticism of the horrible London Mayor now that he is a Tory and a Lib Dem friend! Not surprisingly new backbencher Richard Thomas joined in and even Lib Dems and Tories seemed frustrated by their incoherent rants!! As I have said before "toy town politicians playing toy town politics!" Worst thing is of course they do it in our name!!
It was interesting to see the only two good Executive performances on the night from David Noakes and Paul Noblet which really brings into contrast the woeful performance of the rest of them! The two of them must have been cringing all night!
It was great to see that my good friend Jermey Fraser was ordained at the weekend at Southwark Cathedral after a number of yeasr preparing for the Ministry!
New rumours of Portsmouth interest in Stephen Fletcher to join Peter Crouch with a £4M+ bid likely and Anderlecht looking to buy Benji for £1M!
With a new stand being build and the Training Centre up and running it may be a "treading water" season for us! Could be a long hard and frustrating season ahead!!
I am off with Shauna to see High School Musical on Saturday at the Hammersmith Apollo and, as not being a HSM aficionado, I really dont know what to expect apart form the fact that "Sharon" from Eastenders is in it!! Report back on Monday but with the Zutons at Somerset House next week and Wizard of Oz at the Royal Festival Hall in two weeks I am sure that I have enough to look forward to!