Vote of No Confidence after debate about policing at Annual Town Conference

Inspector Tony Wakefield was met with a strong reception from residents who felt Crowborough was being ‘short-changed’ by changes in Neighbourhood Policing

The annual Town Conference at All Saints Church yesterday (Wednesday 6th), was an opportunity for electors to find-out what the Town Council has been working-on during the past year, and gives residents the chance to raise issues and ask questions.  Other highlights of the meeting included:

  • Steel Cross saga continues

  • Update on purchase of Pine Grove

  • Presentation by 1st Crowborough Scouts

Inspector-WakefieldInspector Wakefield spoke about the financial restrictions Sussex Police were facing and the need to ‘do more with less’ to respond to new threats, harms and risks.  He said there was going to be no reduction in response policing (999 emergency calls), which was still going to be from Uckfield 24-hours a day.   Re-iterating some of the points the Police and Crime Commissioner made at a meeting in Crowborough last month (See Fear Crowborough will become an easy target for criminals), he explained the changes in Police Community Support Officers.  From July, PCSOs would be booking-on at Hailsham and would be working as a team rather than taking ownership of a specific geographical area.

The first member of the public to speak, disputed this was effective policing and questioned why it took an hour for police to respond to the recent robbery at Poundfield Stores.  He proposed a motion of no confidence in the Chief Constable and Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

After some confusion about whether the vote was going to take place immediately, or whether the debate would first continue, Inspector Wakefield said it was difficult for him to respond about the robbery without knowing the full details.  After consulting his notes, he said the police did react by deploying a police helicopter and a dog-support unit.

[Inspector Wakefield checked incident records after the meeting and confirms the response time was actually 17 minutes.  Which is 2 minutes over the target time of 15 minutes – but considerably less than the hour quoted.]

Inspector Wakefield also revealed that the suspect was identified by an off-duty Police Community Support Officer.  The PCSO saw the photograph circulated by Sussex Police of the young man absconding from the scene, taken by a quick-thinking witness.  This prompted the Chair of the Community Association, Chantal Wilson, to raise her concern with the changes, which focused on the local knowledge PCSOs have developed by working a patch.  Mrs Wilson said by doing so it ‘removes knowledge of what is normal’.

Asked why the Town Council could no longer pay for a dedicated PCSO for Crowborough, Inspector Wakefield said it was partly to do with job tenure.  He mentioned Hailsham once paid for their own PCSOs, but when the Town Council stopped providing the funding, he said Sussex Police had to pick-up the bill.  There were other questions about who would enforce parking infringements, dogs fouling & microchipping, and speeding on Whitehill Road.

After Inspector Wakefield left the meeting the vote was taken: About half of the electors voted in favour of the motion of no confidence in the Chief Constable and Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.   The Town Council emphasise that votes are persuasive only and are not binding upon the Town Council.

Reports on Town Council’s Projects and Events

Written reports were received from each of the Chairman of the Town Council’s committees.  Councillor Matthew Street, Chairman of the Communications and Events Committee, encouraged people to attend the next two events in the Crowborough diary – the lighting of the Beacon for The Queen’s 90th Birthday and the Boundary Walk in May.  There were questions about whether it would be better to hold the Christmas event on a Saturday and another about the suitability of the field used for the Summer Fair.

Councillor Kay Moss updated residents on the projects the Sport, Recreation and Cemetery Committee had been working-on.  She said the cinder track at Goldsmiths had been deemed as safe.  A working Group was still investigating how the running track could be upgraded whilst still allowing other activities to take place in the same space.  A new access track and car park has been constructed at the new cemetery at Summersales Hill.  The new burial ground should hopefully last for between 100-150 years.  The next committee meeting would be giving some thought to a proper name for the cemetery.

Pine Grove

Councillor Quentin Burch updated people on the latest in relation to Pine Grove, and the freehold of the Community Centre and Bluebell Wood.  He explained money collected from Council Tax payers in 2015/16, that was going to be used to pay interest on the first year of the loan, had been banked by the Town Council.  Councillors have not decided how the money would be used; whether it be on reducing the size or the loan, renovation of the building or other projects.  He said the following day (Thursday 7th) the planning committee was going to decide on whether to grant permission for D1 public services-type uses in the building, and that the meeting could be watched on the web from 10am: council.wealden.gov.uk.

If you weren’t at the Conference and you’d like to receive a copy of the reports please contact the Town Council to see how it is possible to receive a copy.

Steel Cross

Councillor Greg Rose, Vice-Chair of the Planning and Development Committee said the Steel Cross saga was not over.  A decision to prevent a development of 100 houses in the AONB off Palesgate Lane, is being challenged by the Secretary of State on the basis the Council cannot show it has enough land for housing for the next five years (more detail to follow).  In February a High Court judge overturned an appeal decision taken by a Government planning inspector.

Friends of Montargis and 1st Crowborough Scouts

1st-Crowborough-Scouts

Assistant Group Scout Leader Gareth Dalton

Hilary Lyon spoke about this year’s celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the twinning with Montargis, and there was an inspiring presentation by Gareth Dalton describing the scouting movement in Crowborough.  He spoke about the range of activities the 200 or so Beavers, Cubs and Scouts get involved in as well as highlights in the rich history since 1st Crowborough Scouts was formed in 1908, including the fact it piloted the first Beaver Colony in England.  He explained how the community and local businesses could help, including the needs for more volunteer leaders and helpers and efforts to raise much needed funds to maintain the Scout HQ on Whitehill Road.

Mayor’s Charities

The Mayor Councillor Ron Reed presented cheques to Joan Brookbank and Councillor Jeannette Towey.  The High Weald Dementia Social Group and the Jarvis Brook Community Hub were his chosen charities for the year.

Joan Brookban High Weald Dementia Support Group

Joan Brookbank, High Weald Dementia Support Group

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