LBWF Leader Cllr. Clare Coghill and knife crime: some issues that need to be addressed, and urgently

According to the Waltham Forest Guardian, there were serious stabbings in Walthamstow on the 14, 16, and 19 November just past, leading the police to impose a section 60 order, which allows them augmented powers of stop and search.

On 17 November, the Leader of LBWF, Clare Coghill, issued a press release:

‘”I fully understand that the community is concerned following the two violent incidents that took place in Walthamstow this week. I would like to reassure you we are working closely with and supporting the police in tackling such incidents and making sure the people involved are caught. This type of crime has no place in our borough. I have spoken to Det Chief Superintendent Richard Tucker today and I am confident the police are doing everything they can including putting a dispersal zone in place around key areas. I am meeting the police next week to discuss longer term actions to stamp out this type of crime”’.

Cllr. Coghill’s words are predictable, the usual string of clichés that are the staple of the Town Hall PR machine.

But if she really wants to ‘reassure’ residents about knife crime, let alone ‘stamp it out’, she urgently needs to get to grips with the following:

1. In 2011, LBWF launched an innovative Gang Prevention Programme (GPP), headed by an experienced specialist brought in from Brent, and representing good value for money. Today, the GPP exists in name only, with the specialist long gone, and any sense of urgency dissipated.

2. The Safer Neighbourhoods Board (SNB) is the prime forum for police-community relations in Waltham Forest, and should be giving a lead on issues like knife crime. But in the past few years the SNB has not met regularly, failed to keep proper minutes, and (presumably in an effort to appear important) included on its posted roster individuals who subsequently either deny any involvement or did not give permission for their names to be made public. Moreover, the SNB has rarely received much support from councillors, and, indeed, even one of Cllr. Coghill’s closest colleagues, Cllr. Liaquat Ali MBE JP, who until recently was the relevant portfolio holder with a c. £21,000 allowance, rarely deigned to attend.

3. The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has provided the SNB with substantial sums of public money to run programmes in Waltham Forest, yet when questioned by this blog cannot document what this expenditure has produced.

4. The Chief Executive of LBWF, Martin Esom, earns £195,000 p.a., a princely sum, and glaringly more than the Prime Minister. Yet Cllr. Coghill and her peers have recently allowed Mr. Esom in addition to join the Health and Safety Executive as a part-time non-executive director – a post which entails approximately 30 days commitment per year for a remuneration of no less than £15,100 (that is £503 per day). That’s great for Mr. Esom, but bad for the borough. Put bluntly, even someone as well paid as Martin Moneybags can’t do two things at once, and 30 days lost to LBWF is 30 days lost thinking about how to curtail knife crime.

5. In 2016, the clear up rate for knife crime in Waltham Forest was a paltry 16.3 per cent, well below the London average. Since being caught is one of the best forms of deterrence, this situation is little short of disastrous. Why should anyone think twice about using a knife if they know that there is a four in five chance of getting away with it?

It is true that Cllr Coghill previously has maintained a low profile in terms of police matters, but as a Cabinet member of relatively long-standing, she must accept some responsibility for the evolution of the dreadful situation that pertains.

What’s for sure is that, if she now fails to act decisively, her sudden interest in knife crime will look like an exercise in playing to the gallery – as with her predecessors, noisily seeming to do something, while actually gazing elsewhere.

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Knife crime in Waltham Forest: a nasty little scandal (1)

Knife crime in Waltham Forest: a nasty little scandal (2)

Knife crime in Waltham Forest: a nasty little scandal (3)

Knife crime in Waltham Forest: a nasty little scandal (4)

Knife crime in Waltham Forest: a nasty little scandal (5)

Knife crime in Waltham Forest: a nasty little scandal (6)

The LBWF Gang Prevention Programme: yet another missed opportunity

Waltham Forest’s Safer Neighbourhoods Board and MOPAC funding: a scandal in the making