Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Not us, gov

The national and local media are carrying reports of anti-terrorism raids and arrests in three different areas of Sheffield and one in Chesterfield. Counter-terrorism police and MI5 officers say they have broken up a suspected Christmas bomb plot and describe the arrests as significant. We await developments.
Meanwhile, an important government adviser – Neil Basu, the senior coordinator for counter-terrorism – says that the reckless cuts to neighbourhood policing have been "a disaster for policing in this country". Both David Cameron and Theresa May were specifically advised of the inevitable outcome of their cuts in police budgets, but both chose to make them whilst cutting the tax bills for the wealthiest and those with the biggest incomes.
After a long period of year-on-year cuts in reported crimes, the Conservatives have yet again reversed the trends.  
  • Violent crime is up by 19% and knife crime is up 26%.
  • For the very first time last year, 2 million crimes went unsolved with more criminals getting off the hook than ever before. 
Well, if you cut police numbers by 20,000 and put counter-terrorism police under such strain that some cases are simply not being investigated, it’s little surprise that crimes aren’t getting solved. There are now fewer police officers per head than at any time on record.
It’s rather like a variation of the old Tommy Cooper joke, with the government minister asking “Doctor, each time I cut police numbers, the number of crimes go up. What shall I do?”, and the Doctor responds “Well stop cutting police numbers then.”
But, instead of listening to the answer and acting on it, the Prime Minister accuses the police service of 'crying wolf'.
Then, to reduce the real extent of the national cuts in police resources, the government has instructed Police and Crime Commissioners to mitigate the situation by increasing the local precept. Of course, this is at the very same time as other government ministers are telling councils to increase the council tax to mitigate the big cuts in national resources for adult social care.
So, the government is forcing through inflation-busting increases in council tax throughout the country to pay for its own negligence.
I’m just waiting for next year’s local election campaigns when we will undoubtedly hear Conservative Ministers and MPs attacking big increases in council tax, as though they had nothing at to do with it, and bear no responsibility for rising crime, or the failure to provide old people with the support and care they need.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Border controls

Debates about border issues are likely to dominate the Brexit debate in the near future. What will be the impact on the movement of people, goods and services across borders between the UK and the EU and the rest of the world?
Whether it’s a hard Brexit (no agreement with the EU on future arrangements) or a soft Brexit (in, or equivalence with, the Single Market), the independent, international researchers all believe there will be a negative affect on the UK economy. They simply disagree about the scale of the impact.
But, it’s some other border controls that I want to address in this article…those relating to taxi and private hire licensing.
As you travel locally, you will probably have been surprised to see taxis and private hire cars carrying Licence Plates carrying the names of councils in Lancashire, Merseyside, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. (I haven’s seen one from Cornwall yet, but I expect it’s just a matter of time.) You may even have ordered a private hire car to collect you from home, but only when dropped off at your destination, have you noticed the Licence Plate saying “Rossendale”.
What’s going on? Well, some Private Hire Drivers have been exploiting a loophole in the Licensing Regulations which allow them to register in one area and then operate in another. This known as cross-border operation.
Why would they do this? Well, although the legislative framework for taxis and private hire vehicles is the same throughout England (except for London which has different laws), the way in which the regulations are implemented vary from council to council. Historically, you could see this most obviously in relation to whether taxis were required to be purpose-designed (like Sheffield) or an ordinary car (like Barnsley).
The most obvious reason for doing this is that the policies and practices for licensing drivers are much tougher in some areas than in others. So, private hire drivers, who think or know that they wouldn’t get a licence in their own area, are getting themselves licensed in council areas where the rules and tests are less stringent.
We are all aware now of the role of some taxi drivers and private hire drivers in the child sexual abuse scandal in Rotherham and other areas. Rotherham has considerably tightened its licensing requirements. However, because of the legal loophole, Rotherham Council is completely unable to stop the Rotherham operations of drivers who wouldn’t get a licence in Rotherham but are getting a licence elsewhere.
That’s why I’m part of an all-party campaign to get the government to close this loophole quickly. Each day that passes without change, our lives are being risked unnecessarily.
Meanwhile, when you order a cab or private hire car, insist that you only want one whose driver is licensed in your council area.