Saturday, 27 February 2016

Councillor Mrs Goodchild: Why I support the 3.95% Increase in Council Tax



At their budget setting meeting on Thursday 25th February 2016, the CBC councillor for Houghton Hall Ward, Liberal Democrat, Mrs Susan Goodchild, had these words of support.
The new rate for a Band D property for the Central Bedfordshire Council is  £1,360.01 (up 3.95%).


By Cllr Mrs S. Goodchild

Cllr Mrs S Goodchild, courtesy of CBC video services.
"I am always concerned when I hear about proposals to increase council tax, but from my personal experience with my constituents in Houghton Regis, which is known to have a higher proportion of residents living in poverty, then I think we must protect front line services and for this reason I will be supporting the increase in Council tax in line with the council’s recommendation.

It is however,  hugely disappointing that the Government has not listened to council’s and charities, which have been urging them to provide sufficient funding to support local welfare assistance.  We cannot pretend that this will not have an impact on the Council’s ability to improve people’s quality of life.

This Council has in the last four years made efficiency savings, whilst working extremely hard to protect the services upon which people rely.

These efficiency savings cannot be made again and I believe the savings that we as a council will need to achieve will be the most difficult yet.

In reality even having the same amount of money to spend in 4 years time, would mean that there are still significant challenges ahead for us as a Council.  We will need to make savings sufficient to compensate for any additional cost pressures that we face over the next 4 years.

Some of the challenges will include the ending of the contracting out of the National Insurance Contributions, introduction of the national living wage and the deprivation of liberty safeguards.

It is commonly held wisdom that prevention is better than cure.  Instead of waiting for people to become vulnerable and require public services, it is more financially prudent and beneficial to society and the individuals to create an environment in which people do not become reliant on public services in the first place.

I am especially pleased to see the £9.5 million for providing disabled facilities grants, this will help our more vulnerable residents who need support to stay in their existing homes, where appropriate or if this is not possible to move them to more suitable accommodation.

I would like to extend my thanks to the Directors and their staff for the hard work that has gone into producing this budget and for the support which has been provided to members, to help them to understand the process."

Listen again

Listen to the recording and hear Cllr Mrs Goodchild from about 35 minutes in: http://www.centralbedfordshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/208084

Friday, 26 February 2016

CBC's Chief Executive "Earns More Than Angela Merkel or Justin Trudeau"



On Thursday 25th February 2016, former CBC councillor for Parkside, Houghton Regis, Dr Rita Egan used the device of 'questions by the public' to deliver these comments to Central Bedfordshire Council as they met to set their budget for 2015/16



By Dr Rita Egan

My question to this Council is a follows.  When are you going to take any notice of your consultation outcomes when the outcomes are not what you want to hear.  This year’s budget consultation, which took place between 4th January and the 8th February, is yet another example of how Central Bedfordshire fulfils its statutory duty, then ignores what residents say.  On this occasion, more residents were opposed to the general tax increase than were in favour.  The author of this report might describe the outcome as finely balanced, but I’m sure the terminology would have been quite different if the residents had narrowly agreed with the Council’s wishes.  As it is, they did not.  Why are they being ignored?

Dr Rita Egan in earlier campaigning days to get
 hedges trimmed and footpaths repaired in Kirton Way
Residents were also concerned about their ability to pay the increases.  This council doesn’t seem too concerned about that either, noting only that there were more elderly people responding to their survey than any other group.  Hardly surprising, as the Council tax is a regressive tax which affects low income earners and fixed income pensioners more than wealthier residents.  I see no effort by this Council to address these concerns except to say, to me personally in fact, that as pensioners have a tripled locked guaranteed 2.5% increase in their pension, they can afford to pay.  In other words, pensioner increases are ripe for the plundering.  Will this council stop regarding annual pension increases as an additional funding source?

There were also a significant number of residents (we are not told how many) who expressed concern at how much council officers and executive members get paid.  Well, that’s something I’ve been complaining about for years, but apart from hiring newer officers on lower salaries (still over £100,00 a year though) nothing has been done to reduce the stratospheric pay of the chief executive and the directors of Adult social Care and Children’s Services.  To put this into perspective, I took a look at the salaries of world leaders to see how our remuneration compared.  The results are illuminative, to say the least. The Chief Executive’s salary is £185,000 and converted at today’s rates is worth around $260,00 dollars.   This salary ranks 12th on the list of world leaders salaries and is more than either Angela Merkel or Justin Trudeau.

This chart is indicative only. Different web sites show varying sums,
depending on when the last raise was given, the time of the survey and the prevailing exchange rates.

Even the Directors of Children’s Services and Adult Social Care earn more than the heads of government of France, Japan, Italy, India and China.

We are a not for profit organisation funded by the tax payers.  We are not a bank, a corporation and we do not have pay share dividends.  The difference between the lowest paid worker on this Council and the Chief Executive’s salary is in the region of £170,000.  I am asking again that the formula used to justify this salary must be revisited such that instead of earning no  more than 7.5 times the average wage of council workers, it should be no more than 7.5 times the lowest paid worker.
As I have said, I have no faith in council consultations as their outcomes are only adopted when they coincide with what the Council wanted to do in the first place.

On this occasion, the majority of residents were not in favour of an increase in the general council tax to the tune of 1.75% and I am asking therefore, that for once you listen to your residents.

Dr Rita Egan.

Listen to recording and response from CBC Conservative councillors from about 12 minutes: http://www.centralbedfordshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/208084


300 More Officers, Please, Needed to Police Bedfordshire Properly.



About 50 residents turned out on a bitter cold evening this week to hear first hand from Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins on the state of Policing in Bedfordshire.

Mr Martins' talk was illustrated with slides showing statistics that show that Bedfordshire is grossly under-funded for the type and quantity of crime it has to contend with compared with other forces. He told the meeting that Bedfordshire had a high serious crime mix, problems with extremism of the left and the right, faced issues with organised crime groups, the local force had to police the fifth busiest airport in the country, and that the county had easy access routes to the capital for criminals.

He told the audience, "We are funded like a small rural county. And yet we are the 4th highest county for gun crime, the 7th highest for knife crimes, and the 5th highest for acquisitive crimes. In a comparable table we are at the low end of how many police officers we have per 100,000 of population."

"On the plus side, we have had 600 fewer victims of burglary in the last year, and we are the third lowest on non-staff costs. By 2019/20 50% of the police budget will be on tri-working with our police forces in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, making £10 million in savings."

"Our officers have body worn cameras. This means that they are less likely to be challenged on what happened, guilty people tend to admit their guilt more freely, and less time needs to be spent by our officers in the courts." He went on to talk about smart phones, tagging, the experimental use of flying drones to assist in chases, and identification.

Mr Martins said the Chief Constable would like another 300 officers for Bedfordshire to help him cover the county properly. "At the moment, " he said, "a fair analogy of the situation would be that the force are trying to cover a double bed with a single duvet. The national average was 232 officers per 100,000 people, the Metropolitan Force had 388, whereas Bedfordshire had just 169."

Chief Inspector Quinn next addressed the meeting, and encouraged people to report in details, particularly of nuisance off-road bikes. He cited a case where officers had knocked on doors at 3am and made arrests, and found stolen bikes at that address, and implied that this knock-and-seize approach would continue. He said a new community policing unit was being set up to tackle a variety of nuisances in the community. They would take a holistic approach, rather than taking on specific single issues.

A public question and answer session followed, before the meeting concluded at 9pm.

Nuiance off-road bikes

Residents can email opmeteorinbox@bedfordshire.pnn.police.uk with information.
Use the email address to

  • send an in-depth description of the activity and culprits witnessed, 
  • send any photographs and video of off-road biking in progress, 
  • provide the names and details of any people known or suspect.

Sign the Petition


"The Government must ensure that Bedfordshire Police is adequately funded". https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/110333

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Houghton Regis Helpers - Another Record Year of Helping!


The AGM of the Houghton Regis Helpers was held at Red House Court, Clarke's Way, Houghton Regis, on Tuesday, hosted by Jenny and Eric Gallucci, Secretary and Chairman, pictured above.

It was reported that the voluntary group had had a record year, carrying out over 900 tasks for 96 clients (up from 85 in 2014)  by 31 volunteers.

In the past 4 years 204 clients had been assisted with tasks such as gardening, shopping, wallpapering, form-filling, and lifts to doctors or hospital.

18 volunteers regularly visited clients as a befriender on outings, sorting paperwork, or walks, and each week 15 to 20 phone calls and messages were handled. The year had seen 5 new volunteers join and finished with a final tally of 32 volunteers.

The helpers were nominated for two awards in 2015: Cheering Volunteering Award in June, and the Pride of Houghton Award in October.

The Accounts for the Helpers were in a very healthy state, thanks largely to a substantial donation of £1095  from 'Last of the Summer Wine Ukulele' players. It was explained that donations were asked for from those that they help, where appropriate to do so. And it was pointed out that very often it was not a case of not being able to afford to have something done, it was quite often the case that it was hard to find someone to do the task.

For further information, or to get help, or to become a helper, please visit houghtonregishelpers.co.uk

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Your Chance To Meet The Police: 7pm Thursday 25 Feb, at St Vincent’s Social Centre


Residents in Bedfordshire are being invited to a public meeting with Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins and two senior police officers to address local policing concerns.

Commissioner Martins will be joined at St Vincent’s Social Centre in Houghton Regis at 7pm on Thursday (25 February) by Senior Local Policing Command Officers.

Olly Martins said, “I have been picking up worries about policing in the Houghton Regis area for some months now, face-to-face from residents, from Town and Central Beds councillors and on social media.

“Some of the concern relates to changes in the processes being implemented as part of the new force operating model. The meeting will provide an opportunity to reassure residents about the new structure and how it is helping to deliver improvements, such as better police emergency response times and a 40% reduction in burglary in Houghton Regis in the last 12 months. Also more regular Police Officers are to be recruited over the coming months which will help improve the visibility of the local policing team.

“But there is no doubt that even with this recruitment there will still be way too few police in the county because of our chronic underfunding. In fact the Chief Constable says we would need at least 300 extra officers to put us on a par with forces facing comparable policing challenges to Bedfordshire”.

Mr Martins says the key to keeping Houghton Regis and other areas safe even with the overstretched ‘thin blue line’ we have is for communities and their police to work closely together. “I hope this meeting will prove to be the catalyst for forging the strongest possible partnership for the future” he said. “I’m not expecting the public to do the job of the police but it is important that the resources we have are used as effectively as possible. This means residents helping to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the police. The ongoing Operation Meteor against dangerous anti-social off road bikes shows how effective this alliance can be. There have been 340 emails from the public which have already led to a series of arrests and 12 bikes being seized, and there’s more to come.”

Houghton Regis Town Council say that it is looking forward to seeing this initiative roll out in the area and will be working with the Police to support it.

Anyone wishing to put questions forward in advance of the meeting should contact the Commissioner’s office on 01234 842064 or by email  PoliceandCrime.Commissioner@Bedfordshire.pnn.Police.uk

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Police Share of Council Tax Up 1.99% Rise (£3.18 a Year on Average) - Enquiry Office Houghton Regis Among the Cuts.



Beds Police will ask for a 1.99% rise (£3.18 a year for the average band D property) in their share of Council Tax. But local police enquiry offices are to close from 21st March.

38 out of 41 Police and Crime Commissioner budgets for 2016/17 have chosen to increase their police council tax precept, with most of them levying the maximum permitted.

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins,  said, “The Chancellor in his Autumn Statement assumed that PCCs would increase local people’s contribution to policing in their council tax by the maximum permitted. His widely acclaimed ‘no cuts’ announcement regarding the overall policing budget is actually dependent on this rise this year and for the next 4 years. Police precepts are now effectively being set in Whitehall as the burden for funding local services is shifted to council tax.”

More than three-quarters (78.4%) of participants in the Commissioner’s on-line survey and face-to-face poll agreed that the policing element of the council tax should go up. The same number of those taking part in the survey also agreed that police officer numbers should be maintained.

Mr Martins, “I consulted the public about the rise, and I am acting in accordance with the public’s feedback. "

The Government has cut Bedfordshire’s Police grant by £400,000. The Chief Constable for Bedfordshire says he needs 300 extra police staff to put this County on a par with other police forces.

Mr Martins said, “We still face continuing financial strains due to expected Police Grant cuts, pay pressures and National Insurance changes. In the next four years we will have to make a further £11m in savings. We hope do this without reducing our already overstretched ‘thin blue line’.”

 “We have 169 officers per 100,000 population.  In England and Wales the average is 232.  In the Metropolitan area the average is 388. We face serious crime challenges more commonly found within the larger urban police forces. Bedfordshire has burglary levels like the West Midlands, gun crime worse than Merseyside and similar knife crime. Both those forces have above average funding and therefore better officer numbers. Bedfordshire funding is similar to Dorset, Sussex and Hertfordshire, who have nothing like our policing challenges. In fact last year Herts were £7m underspent on their police budget, hence why their PCC Mr Lloyd was able to cut his precept.

“My commitment is to continue campaigning for a fairer funding formula from the Home Office until Bedfordshire receives the funding it deserves. Sadly the government looks set to kick their review of the funding formula into the long grass.”


  • A new, purpose-built, Enquiry Office for the Beds Police at its headquarters in Kempston, opening 8am to 8pm seven days a week from Monday 21 March. Dunstable Police Station Enquiry Office will be open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday from 21 March, as will Greyfriars Police Station in Bedford.


  • Enquiry Offices at Biggleswade, Leighton Buzzard, Flitwick and Houghton Regis Police Stations will close from March 20th, although it is important to understand they remain as fully functioning operational police stations.

  • Residents can still book a time to go and see an officer at any of the stations, or in the comfort of their own homes. The same applies at Riseley Police Post and Futures House in Marsh Farm, Luton.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Olly Martins, added: “We have had to take some really difficult decisions in order to ensure we spend our limited resources in the most effective way possible. Some of our smaller Enquiry Offices were only being used by a handful of people, whereas the overwhelming majority contact the police in other ways. So we are keeping Enquiry Offices where demand justifies it and tailoring opening hours to what is needed, whilst otherwise directing resources to protecting frontline policing.

“Naturally I will continue to press the Government for fairer police funding for Bedfordshire, so that instead of facing difficult decisions such as this we can instead recruit the 300 extra officers the Chief Constable says we should have.”

Monday, 15 February 2016

New Leisure Centres For Flitwick and Dunstable

Flitwick Leisure Centre opens February 29th. Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/FLClifestyles/photos_stream
Last week's Central Bedfordshire Council's executive committee agreed to fund a  £20.1m redevelopment of Dunstable Leisure Centre. This figure was confirmed to HRND by Cllr B. Spurr 16/2/2016 - see "Puzzle" below.

The present library and sports centre in Dunstable are regarded as not fit for purpose. The investment to the Dunstable town centre site means that leisure, library and other facilities will all sit under one roof.

A building contractor will now be procured to design and build the centre which is planned to open at the end of 2017.

Cllr Brian Spurr, executive member for community services, said: "The leisure facilities will be dramatically enhanced and by bringing in the Library and other community services to the site, we will create a community hub which everyone can use and enjoy."

Cllr Nigel Young, executive member for regeneration, added: "The council’s investment in the town centre is great news. This move will both improve our services to customers and unlock other opportunities to revitalise Dunstable."

Meanwhile, a new Leisure Centre for Flitwick is almost complete and is due to open on 29th February.


The plans for Flitwick Leisure Centre [link]  included:

  • 8 lane 25 m swimming pool
  • separate learner pool with a variable height base to enable both adult and children’s use
  • toddler splash area – an area of shallow water for families with young children to get used to the water and have fun
  • 4 court sports hall for activities such as badminton, martial arts, trampolining, gymnastics
  • health and fitness suite for 120 cardio and resistance equipment
  • 3 studios for a range of class based physical activity
  • 2 squash courts
  • crèche
  • indoor climbing wall
  • wet and dry changing facilities
  • reception and office
  • café area for light refreshments
  • health referral room for confidential health and wellbeing advice
  • car parking and access road

Puzzle Over Cost of Dunstable Redevelopment Scheme

CBC's Facebook Page announced one figure, and their website announced another. Both sets of information were simultaneously available online on 14th Feb.

UPDATE. Cllr Brian Spurr explained on 16/1/2016, "The revised cost is £ 20.1 million  I needed to go back to exec for addition funds if we wanted to complete the project properly. Building costs have increased.  We have also added for more use of the centre as a hub for services etc."



Crowd Source Funding Plea For Local Fishing Tackle Shop


Robert Hayes is looking for people to help fund a fishing shop project in Houghton Regis.

Mr Hayes, a bailiff for a local fishing spot, is looking for a place to run a fishing and outdoor gear store.

He wrote on the group's Facebook Page Houghton Chalk Pit Fishing Club, "The fishing club is just at the end of its 1st season. We were told that if the site was not kept in a nice order and used properly they (the site ardens) would remove the fish. We, as a club, need to make sure that doesn't happen. If I set my shop up I will make a donation from the profits, so it does not close and remains a place for all to enjoy."

" I do want this shop to work. If it does the place will blossom. Family fun days fishing workshops for all ages and skills. Wildlife walks. Loads and loads of great ideas. Help us please."

Anyone interested can help by donating at https://www.gofundme.com/ny8nram4







Thursday, 11 February 2016

Nuisance Bikes: Police Approach Will Be Disruption, Disruption, Disruption





STATEMENT FROM BEDS POLICE

"Our new approach to dealing with these brazen offenders is disruption, disruption, disruption"

Police are taking Meteoric steps to combat the dangerous and troublesome issue of off-road bikes in the south of the county.

The anti-social practice has long been a problem for residents in key hotspots such as Dunstable, Houghton Regis, Leighton Buzzard and Luton.

Sergeant Louise Bates, who now shares responsibility for tackling the off-road bikes issue, said: “While Bedfordshire Police has continued to hold Operation Meteor overt events throughout spike periods, the problem has not abated and the bikers continue to make lives difficult for the innocent residents of these areas.

“Off-road bikers are far more than just a nuisance – they are an absolute thorn in our communities’ sides and present risks to public safety.

Our new approach to dealing with these brazen offenders is disruption, disruption, disruption – these bikers should be aware that we will stop their activity by any means available to us. This can involve arresting them on related offences such as theft or road traffic offences, and by seizing their vehicles.

“As part of Operation Meteor we are now working even more closely with our partners in Central Bedfordshire Council and Luton Borough Council – the areas we tend to see the majority of these problems – and will continue to utilise resources where we can to both stop the bikers in their tracks, and keep tabs on any criminal activity taking place behind the scenes.”


Residents can email opmeteorinbox@bedfordshire.pnn.police.uk with pictures and footage.  

opmeteorinbox@bedfordshire.pnn.police.uk

Having a dedicated Op Meteor team has already allowed for some positive results in the fight against off-road bikers.

On Friday (5 January) police attended reports of nuisance motorcycles in Maidenbower Avenue, Dunstable.

On arrival at a property in the road, officers discovered three mini motos which were suspected stolen. The occupant of the home, a 26-year-old man, was arrested on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle and is currently on bail.

Arrests for other key off-road biking suspects have also taken place in relation to other offences – just one part of the disruptive tactics being utilised under the updated Meteor plan.

A covert operation was also held in Sundon Pits on Sunday (7 February) while more are planned for the future.

To date there have been 250 emails to the opmeteorinbox@bedfordshire.pnn.police.uk inbox for the public to submit photographs and video, which have all been responded to with evidence being collated.

It must be emphasised that the email address is not an instant reporting tool, and will not be monitored 24/7.

Residents must still call 101 to speak directly to police to report live incidents, and 999 in a genuine emergency.


A resident told Houghton Regis News Desk, "This is the Off Road biker roaming Houghton Regis making a right racket and disturbing whole neighbourhood from morning till late in to the night. He is riding around Hillsborough Crescent Tithe Farm Parkside Sundon Rd. He carries children and other passengers. I quite frankly think he has not a care how much racket he makes and several times he jeopardises the ongoing traffic on all above roads. I  pray he slips and breaks his head. Hope he gets caught with Police help. "


Friday, 5 February 2016

This Area: 3.3 percent Increase in All Crime for December


Here is a brief summary of the crime information for the past two months:

November 2015 December 2015
All crime 648 670
Anti-social behaviour 238 258
Bicycle theft 15 13
Burglary 57 81
Criminal damage and arson 56 52
Drugs 7 5
Other crime 2 7
Other theft 44 54
Possession of weapons 1 6
Public order 14 16
Robbery 9 0
Shoplifting 26 19
Theft from the person 4 2
Vehicle crime 78 90
Violence and sexual offences 97 67

Please visit

https://www.police.uk/bedfordshire/65/crime/ for more information including outcomes for these crimes and contact information for your local policing team.


Although care is taken when processing and analysing the data, the detail is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large-scale recording system.
While the figures shown have been checked as far as practicable, they should be regarded as approximate.


Kingfishers Children's Home In Parkside Drive Rated Outstanding by Ofsted

The home, pictured inside.

A Houghton Regis children's home has been rated outstanding across the board by Ofsted.
Kingfishers, which is run by the council, offers short-term respite stays for children with learning and/or physical disabilities.

The home can accommodate four children aged 8 to 18 at any time and currently supports approximately 35 families.

It was inspected in December and the report highlights that Kingfishers “provides highly effective services that consistently exceeds the standards of good. The actions of the home contribute to significantly improved outcomes for children and young people who need help, protection and care”.

The Kingfisher unit provides a service for young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and associated challenging behaviours.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Beds Police Highlight Burglary Success Using Residents Information



Bedfordshire Police is celebrating some positive results from the force’s new dedicated burglary initiative, Operation Fidelity, following a bumper week for the project.

Last Tuesday (26 January) a 15-year-old from Leighton Buzzard was arrested and later charged with six counts of receiving stolen goods. The items were linked to burglaries in Leighton Buzzard.

The teen was detained pending a court appearance.

In the early hours of Thursday (28 January), reports were made by a resident to the force of suspicious activity taking place at the Co-op store in St John’s Street, Kempston.
Officers immediately attended and disrupted a burglary in process. A pursuit was carried out, before partners in the Bedford Borough Council CCTV control room alerted police to further suspicious activity taking place.

The work resulted in two men being arrested on suspicion of burglary.

Later the same day, Peter Smith, 33, of Hitchin Road, Arlesey was arrested and later charged with burglary, in connection with a Biggleswade offence. He has been remanded into custody pending a further court date.

On Friday, Lowen Sweeney, 24, of Wadsworth Court, Bedford was arrested and charged with burglary in connection with a break-in at Bedford’s Cardington Road. A 16-year-old boy from Stewartby was also arrested and charged with conspiracy to burgle, following joint working with our partners in Hertfordshire Constabulary.

Also on Friday, a prisoner currently serving a sentence for burglary admitted further offences before a court, receiving an additional sentence to his current term. Jason Smith, 29, was given a seven-year sentence to run concurrently with his current six-year term.

This was following close working with Fidelity’s burglary cohort team, who conduct prison visits as part of rehabilitation and prevention initiatives.

Detective Inspector Duncan Young, of the force intelligence department and Operation Fidelity, said: “Results like these are becoming increasingly more common since we began our innovative new approach to tackling burglary, while our instances of this type of crime continue to drop year on year.

“What’s key in some of our recent activity is that we are getting information reported to us by residents and partner agencies, demonstrating a more effective way of working with others to protect the public.

“We are more committed than ever to disrupting criminal behaviour, and would like to reassure the community that we are taking action and do not tolerate burglary in Bedfordshire.”

Burglary in Bedfordshire is currently down by 23 per cent in the year to date compared with the same period last year.

For more information see http://www.bedfordshire.police.uk/tackling_crime/burglary.aspx

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Report On Town Partnership Meeting for Houghton Regis


alanwinter.lu5@gmail.com

February 1st - A meeting of Houghton Regis Town Partnership took place at Peel Street at 7.30pm. Members in attendance, Central Bedfordshire Councillors: Mrs S. Goodchild (chair), T. Swain, A. Ryan; Houghton Regis Town Councillors: J. Carroll, D. Dixon-Wilkinson, Ms L. Ellaway, R. Shimmin. Also present:  HRTC: Cllr D. Abbott, Cllr Mrs T McMahon, Cllr K. Wattingham; CBC: Cllr B. Spurr (CBC Executive member); Inspector Clare Thomas (Beds Police), CBC officers: Mrs S Hughes, Mr A Lewis, 4 Parkside residents, 2 Houghton Hall residents, 1 Tithe Farm resident, 2 visitors to explain Groundwork in the town, a PCSO.

CEMETERY - Mr Alan Winter, in public questions, pointed out that in December 2013 it had been "a dilemma" that the town's cemetery had 5 years life left, and that it was going to take 5 years to develop a new cemetery. He wanted to know what the latest projected end of life of the present cemetery was, and what steps the Town Council, and the Central Bedfordshire Council were taking to develop a new site? The Town Clerk replied that, "The Town Council is looking at design options to extend the life of the cemetery, and is looking for more options as opportunities arise and as the town develops." [ Meetings at HRTC on cemetery provision ]

ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR - Mr Ian Laken was concerned about anti-social behaviour in Parkside, and said that there were now more quad bikes around, stone throwing, and people being beaten up. He told the meeting that people do not feel supported by the police, that they were doing nothing, despite having a duty. He wanted the public to be more involved throughout council meetings, not just in public question time, and suggested that an item be placed on the agenda this evening to discuss that, or if not possible, at an extraordinary meeting. He was informed by the Town Clerk that this was not possible due to current Standing Orders.

HIGH STREET - Cllr B. Spurr read out a list of Stage 3 Safety Audit defects to do with the Houghton Regis High Street. The scheme for the High Street had been paid for by the supermarket chain, Morrisons, in connection with their planning permission for the store to be built. Cllr Spurr was sorry, but the money had now run out, and the argument over who pays for the outstanding defect works had now to be resolved. He was determined that it would be, but his Highways budget was committed. He wanted the works to be done, but it might mean that a road or a footpath in another part of Central Bedfordshire might have to wait that much longer. The next step in the safety examination process would be Safety Audit 4, but that would be the final one, and could not be done until Stage 3 defects had been tackled.

CBC had a contract with Amey, for Highways, until 1st April when Ringway Jacobs would be taking over. Cllr Spurr was keen to get "a fresh pair of eyes" on the problems. He said that CBC had inherited a contract with Amey from Bedfordshire County Council that had restricted what the Council could expect from the Highways contractors, but that said, Amey had been very helpful in agreeing some schemes and turning down others to enable priorities to be switched.

Cllr L Ellaway was interested in comments attributed to a biking incident in the High Street that had not mentioned a crossing. She insisted that she and fellow councillor, K. Wattingham were in the vicinity at the time of the incident and confirmed that it was to do with a crossing, but had not reported it themselves as the police had been at the scene.

HOUGHTON HALL PARK - Cllr Spurr mentioned a shortfall of £250,000 in funding for current plans to do with Houghton Hall Park renovation project, but was confident that in the next 3-4 years CBC would find the money. Tenders for work at the park were due to be opened on 2nd February 2016. Cllr Spurr then left the meeting.

POLICE REPORT - Insp. Clare Thomas, making her debut appearance at the Town Council's offices,  lost no time in agreeing that nuisance bikers were a top issue for the town, just as it was an important issue for Luton, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard. She apologised for the lack of a police presence at the Houghton Regis Town Council Combating Crime meetings (Link to HRTC minutes).

The Bedfordshire Police force were now split into two units, one covering the north, the other the south. Many police officers and staff had been lost over recent months. Emergency responses would always be dealt with, and Harm and Risk events would always be top priority. However, she admitted that in the past 6-10 months there had been very little community crime policing. To the question of nuisance bikers, Inspector Thomas said they do not have the resources to fully combat the issue. Operation Meteor - a periodic one-day of action to catch bikes being misused- would continue.

The police would have to be more reliant on the public. Police walking around an area was a thing of the past. The police would also be adopting a strategy employed by the Metropolitan Police known as Operation Trident. Inspector Thomas said that the aim was to treat a family in an holistic manner, putting pressure on misdemeanant families in order to get the best results for the community. To end her report the Inspector mentioned that herself and Sgt Linda Wilson would be dedicated to South Beds from 1st March 2016.

Cllr Mrs Goodchild reflected on things that had been said this evening, and urged those present to engage with children. "They will sing like canaries", she said.

TARGETED YOUTH WORK - A report by Groundwork was given explaining the work they do and are planning to do within Houghton Regis. Groundwork had recently absorbed staff from 4Y2P.

The youth club was operating at Bedford Square Community Centre on Tuesday and Wednesdays, and about 15 youths took part. It was said that the Youth Club had been closed for a two week period, as punishment following an incident where fire extinguishers had been let off. Cllr Wattingham expressed concern that it might not have been fair to close it for everyone. In response, the representative from Greensand Trust said there had been a large number of people involved. Letters had been sent to parents, and one-to-ones would be held with certain individuals before they would be allowed back to use the Club.

Groundwork was planning to do detached outreach street work within Houghton Regis and asked councillors for suggestions as to where they might be deployed. They also had plans to go into schools and local academies.

REPORTS ON TASK AND FINISH GROUPS. Very little was said about these reports. They can be read at the Houghton Regis Town Council website, together with further information relating to everything above. Link

- Alan D Winter 2/2/2016