Where is our City going?
The City Debate, 29th November 2002
The topic on this occasion was “Where is our City going?” and the size of the audience showed the evident interest from all quarters. Each of the three principal speakers, Alan Simpson MP, the Rt Revd Malcolm McMahon, Bishop of Nottingham, and the Nottinghamshire Chief Constable, Steve Green was asked to outline his hopes and fears for the City’s future. All were very sincere, almost passionate in their contributions.
All welcomed the continuing prosperity of the City and hoped that all residents would be able to share in this. However, this would not happen automatically and people would have to be more aware of the needs of less fortunate neighbours. There was a fear that otherwise the city could have at its heart an area of deprivation surrounded by affluent areas.
Other fears highlighted included burglary, street crime, car theft and vandalism. All speakers agreed that the major reason for much of the recent increase in violent crime stemmed from the extensive use of drugs, particularly heroin. The Chief Constable pointed out that to feed their habit users turned to burglary and mugging and that rivalries among dealers are often solved by using guns and knives. Getting drugs out of the city would eliminate a significant proportion of these problems.
Alan Simpson wanted tougher penalties on carriers of illegally owned guns, but said we should be able to understand and support young people who carry a gun because they are afraid of attack. He touched on the problem of car theft and joyriding. Often this stemmed from a real interest in cars, and he mentioned a successful training scheme to involve young people in repairing and driving cars, which could lead to successful careers, and was disappointed that this might fold because of lack of funding. We wanted more, not less, to keep youngsters usefully occupied. He wanted central government not to dictate policies from above, but to let locals follow schemes suited particularly to the locality.
Questions were asked from the audience and comments were made particularly about lack of local policing on estates and the slow response (if any) to vandalism. Steve Green pointed out that he no longer had the power to compel constables to live on estates, and at present his resources had to be concentrated on eliminating the drug and gun culture, in accordance with targets set by the government. This reply did not satisfy one questioner, and I observed her deep in conversation with him after the meeting had finished!
Among other problems raised by questioners were those resulting from the large number of pubs and clubs in the city centre, with the possibility of longer opening hours; and that poorer families often do not receive the continuing support from Social Services that they need.
The Chairman, John Hess, concluded that solutions seemed to be that we should be pressing for more resources from government and greater flexibility in applying them to local solutions, and that all local statutory and voluntary agencies should co-operate to support each other and hammer out a common purpose.
I felt that the meeting served a useful purpose in highlighting what was needed for the City to continue to improve the lot of all its inhabitants and its visitors, and to make everyone aware of the direction that solutions might take.