Wednesday, 6 February 2013

More police for just 1p a day?

WE should all count our blessings that we live in an area which is virtually crime free, one of the safest in Dorset.

But even in this town, talk to the man in the street about policing and he would almost certainly say we need need more Bobbies On The Beat.

Dorset’s new Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, has already come to that conclusion and is putting up the police precept (the amount you pay in council tax allocated to run Dorset Police) by the equivalent of just one penny per household a day.

By doing so he claims he will be able to put an extra 12 police officers on the beat.

To justify his decision, Mr Underhill says in a press release this week: “I want to ensure security in the home and safety in public places. We need to invest in our force to do this. 

“On my visits to towns and villages across Dorset, I have been told repeatedly that people want a more visible force. My priority is to keep people in Dorset safe and feeling safe. 

“I am asking people for an extra penny a day to sustain frontline policing, to help cut crime.”

And referring to the austerity cuts forced on Dorset Police, he adds: “There is a danger that we will begin to be unrepresentative of the community that we are policing and lose vital skills and leadership potential that new officers can bring.” 

Mr Underhill says his increased budget will allow for the recruitment of extra police officers and increase the number of Special Constables through a campaign he has already launched.

The Commissioner’s good intentions are slightly tempered, however, when he goes on to point out that police officer recruitment in Dorset has been suspended since June 2010. 

The extra 1p per day increased precept will mean he can recruit 12 new officers from June this year.

But because of the freeze on recruitment, the force will still see a reduction of 38 officers - compared to the originally anticipated reduction of 50.

So is that 12 new Bobbies On The Beat or not?

You will get your chance to put this question to Mr Underhill on Saturday morning when he will be one of the speakers at a meeting organised by the Lyme Regis and Marshwood Liberal Democrats at the Woodmead Halls, starting at 10:30am.

And as we report elsewhere in this paper, Mr Underhill, who did not visit Lyme Regis before his election, is planning to hold his own public meeting in the town in the spring.

Few would begrudge paying an exta 1p per day for a more visible police presence on our streets.

But if the Commissioner is putting 12 more police officers on the streets, will those of us who live in low crime areas reap the benefit, or will they be allocated to areas such as Bournemouth and Poole where crime is more prevalent?

We should find out on Saturday morning.

Get strumming!

ALL those out there who fancy yourself as a rock star, here’s your chance.

In another brilliantly creative idea, music PR Geoff Baker is getting together with top chef Mark Hix to stage an attempt on the Guinness world record for the most guitars being played at the same time.

The event is being lined up for one of Mark’s intended food festivals during the summer months to boost the local economy.

The current record of 1,857 guitarists playing at the same time, set in 2009,  is held by the Texas town of Luckenbach, whose organisers have already sent a good luck message to Lyme.

Geoff, who spent 15 years as Paul McCartney’s PR man and is now a freelance journalist, is hoping to involve well known rock guitarist, Dorset-based Robbie McIntosh, a former lead guitarist with McCartney, The Pretenders and John Mayer.

Geoff is hoping to beat the Texas record by attracting 2,000 guitar players to the beach all strumming the Beatles’ number 'Two Of Us'. He has chosen this song because, with four chords (C, D, G and A minor) it’s relatively easy to play.

Getting 2,000 people onto the beach playing the guitar at one time is certainly a logistical challenge but will be a huge spectacle.

I’ve often been struck by how many people have a guitar, know a few chords and strum away purely for pleasure without ever appearing in public, so 2,000 may not be over ambitious.

It’s the sort of event that could catch on with the right sort of publicity - and you can rely on Geoff for generating all sorts of wheezes to get musicians from wide and far to support the event.

Little more the council can do

SOMEONE stopped me in the street last week to say how awful the situation had become down at Monmouth Beach and couldn’t the council do more to help those who looked like they would be losing their holiday chalets.

It certainly is a worrying situation for those who own the chalets and who could lose them altogether, especially if they have forked out a six figure sum in fairly recent times to acquire their holiday hideaway.

Distressing as this must be, there has been a great deal of exaggeration about the extent of the probelms. 

According to the Daily Mail last week, as many as 18 chalets worth in the region of £200,000 each (where did that valuation come from?) are about to slide into the sea.

The dozen or so chalets that sit on the western end of the plateau are most at risk from the continuing Ware Cliffs landslide which has been going on for hundreds of years.

Even if it was possible from an engineering point of view, the cost of stablising these cliffs would be prohibitive.

The council’s main priority has to be the safety of life and to do all they can to ensure that people do not take unneccesary risks.

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