Monday, 21 August 2017

STAYING SECURE ONLINE: Simple Advice From Cyber Aware

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The key behaviours to help you improve your online security are:

Install the latest software and app updates

• They contain vital security updates which help protect your device from viruses and hackers
• Security updates are designed to fix weaknesses in software and apps which could be used by hackers to attack your device. Installing them as soon as possible helps to keep your device secure
• You can choose to install updates at night when you are asleep and your device is plugged in or set your mobile or tablet to automatically update your apps when you are connected to Wi-Fi and an update is available
• You can also set laptops and desktops to automatically install software updates when an update is available

Use a strong, separate password for your email account (you can use three random words or numbers to create a strong password).
• Hackers can use your email to access many of your personal accounts, by asking for you password to be reset, and find out personal information, such as your bank details, address or date of birth, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft or fraud
• Having strong, separate passwords for your most important accounts means that if hackers steal your password for one of your less important accounts, they can't use it to access your most important ones
• Make sure your password is easy for you to remember, but not easy for others to guess e.g. Pa55word may follow the rules of using letters and symbols but is well known amongst hackers as a common password
• Don't use words which would be easy to discover from your social media accounts, such as your child's name or favourite sports team
Other behaviours which can help keep you secure online include:
Secure your tablet or smartphone with a screen lock
• Give your device an extra layer of security by setting it to lock when you aren't using it
• Screen locks provide an extra layer of security to your device, as each time you want to unlock it or turn it on, you will need to enter a PIN, pattern, password or fingerprint
• This means if someone gets hold of your device they can't access the data on your device without entering your password, pattern, PIN or fingerprint

Always back-up your most important data
• Safeguard your most important data such as your photos and key documents by backing them up to an external hard drive or a cloud-based storage system
• If your device is infected by a virus or accessed by a hacker, your data may be damaged or deleted, which means you won't be able to access it. Backing up your data means you have another copy of it, which you can access
Final tips:
• Remember that spammers could also gain access to a friend's account, so if you get an uncharacteristic email containing a link from a friend, do not click on it but find another way of contacting them to check that the message is genuine.
• Leave a website if you feel suspicious – if the site doesn't look or 'feel' right, if there is text that doesn't appear to have any purpose or doesn't tie in with the rest of the site, or if you feel uneasy for any reason.
• Regularly check your social media privacy settings to control exactly what you're sharing with whom.
• If you're going away on holiday, don't advertise it on social media!
• If you use a wireless network at home, password-protect it.

These simple steps can go a long way to helping you to stay secure online. 

For more information visit

• Unexpected calls where the fraudsters claim to be officials asking for bank details or advance payment OR from a computer company asking for computer access to take
your data
- Genuine staff will never unexpectedly call asking for bank details or advance payment OR to fix your computer
• Fraudsters are rehearsed and seem very genuine

What to do when you receive a call:
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• When you meet someone online, once they have your trust they may ask you for money
• They may say they need medical help or that they need money to visit

What to do -
- Never send money to someone you don't know
- Only use a reputable online dating service

• Forceful calls made unexpectedly offering investment opportunity
• The customer is unlikely to gain financial returns

What to do -
- Be sceptical of unexpected calls offering investments
- Seek independent advice before an investment

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Call to Stay Vigilant as Crime Rises By 10%

Police-recorded crime has risen by 10% across England and Wales – the largest annual rise for ten years - according to the very latest Office for National Statistics figures.

The figures show almost 5 million crimes in England and Wales were recorded by the police for the 12 months to March this year – up 10% on the same period in 2015/16.

Police recorded 458,021 more offences compared with the previous year, which the ONS said was driven by an increase in violence – police recorded an 18% rise in violent crime, including a 20% surge in gun and knife crime.

Jayne Pascoe, Strategic Partnerships Director for Neighbourhood Watch, said: "We have also seen a rise in burglary and robbery but we do need to be mindful that these recent increases should be seen in the context of substantial falls in such crimes over the last 20 years.

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"However it's timely to remind supporters of the importance of staying vigilant and looking out for each other and being aware of what's happening in our neighbourhoods – and shows that Neighbourhood Watch is needed now just as much as ever."

Jayne added that modern menaces are also behind the crime increase.

"What the figures do show is the widespread prevalence of cybercrime. That's why we're working hard on helping our supporter help themselves and their neighbours to protect themselves from cybercrime."

The official figures also show a 26% rise to 723 in the homicide rate, which includes the 96 cases of manslaughter at Hillsborough in 1989.
Interestingly, the statisticians say the rise in crime is accelerating, with a 3% increase recorded in the year to March 2015, followed by an 8% rise in the following year, and now a 10% increase in the 12 months to this March.
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Neighbourhood Watch volunteers still have an "incredibly important" role to play in tackling crime, says Home Office minister Sarah Newton MP. 

The Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism opened our Neighbourhood Watch Connect2Protect conference in London last month. 

She paid tribute to the impressive reach of the Neighbourhood Watch movement and called on supporters to find new ways of reaching out to tackle not only traditional crimes and also new, hidden crimes that cause so much misery and harm in our communities. 

She thanked volunteers for their help in reducing traditional crimes such as burglary and car crime over the last three decades and asked them to now turn their attention to raising awareness of cybercrime, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, human trafficking and extremism.

Last month NHWN hosted our Connect2Protect event attended by members, partners and key stakeholders from across England and Wales. 

The successful event kicked off with an inspirational speech from Sarah Newton MP, Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism detailing Government priorities contained within the Modern Crime Prevention Strategy and how Neighbourhood Watch can help with those priorities. 

This message was reiterated by NHWN Chair Lynn Farrar, who highlighted the way forward for the movement in light of these new and emerging threats.  Attendees also heard first-hand examples of work undertaken by volunteers from across the movement including support for vulnerable elderly people suffering from dementia in Kingston-upon-Thames, innovative partnership working undertaken in Lancashire and the growing problem of fraud and cybercrime taken on by Sussex Neighbourhood Watch. 

Following a morning of presentations, the event then enabled attendees to network, exchange ideas and best practice, directed by expert partners from various fields, including youth engagement, hate crime and diversity, to name but a few. 

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See the Powerpoint presentation for more slides.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Working with Dogs Trust To Prevent the Heartbreak of a Stolen Pet

Dog theft is on the rise, and as such, Neighbourhood Watch and Dogs Trust are urging the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. In 2016 alone, nearly 1,800 instances of dog theft were reported to police forces across England and Wales. 

Information obtained by Dogs Trust through a Freedom of Information request also reveals that gardens, closely followed by the home, are the most common areas from which dogs were reported stolen. Lee Paris, Campaigns Officer at Dogs Trust, told Our News : "It is a sad day when we have to issue these types of warnings, but with instances of dog theft becoming more prevalent, we want to ensure that dog owners are aware of the dangers so that they can help keep their beloved pets safe. Theft of any item is distressing, but when a dog is stolen, who many consider a part of the family; the experience can be even more distressing." 

The most common breed of dog reported as stolen was the Staffordshire Bull-terrier, followed then by the Jack Russell, Chihuahua and the Bulldog. But Dogs Trust warns that any dog, whatever the breed, is at risk of theft if left unsupervised. 

Lee continues: "By making small changes to the garden and the home, and by registering to a local Neighbourhood Watch scheme, we hope we can help reduce the number of dog theft instances. The message we want to get across when it comes to garden security is that we want to keep the dog in, but keep thieves out!" As such, Dogs Trust advises never to leaving your dog unattended, and has put together the following advice on how to help protect your dog from the risk of theft and what to do should the worst happen. 

Whether you own a dog or not, intruders should not be able to access your garden or property.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Fresh Start Catering to Operate Houghton Hall Park Café

Ground clearance at start of café building project

Central Bedfordshire Council is pleased to announce the contract for the Visitor Centre café at Houghton Hall Park has been awarded to Fresh Start Catering.

The café will serve a variety of local produce, coffees, hot food and refreshments for park users, and will also have the potential for hospitality catering and event opportunities.

Staff are currently being recruited for particular role opportunities and a small focus group will meet on August 31st to provide feedback for pricing and menu options.

Andrew Howarth, Business Development Director at Fresh Start Catering said, “Our philosophy is based around serving fresh, locally sourced healthy menus for all age ranges. Some of our fruit and vegetables will be grown in the kitchen garden at Houghton Park thanks to the Head Gardener.

We want the Park Café to be part of the local community supporting local suppliers and employing from the Houghton Regis area.

We look forward to meeting all our new customers in this beautiful new café and we very much look forward to opening this new facility.”

Houghton Hall Park is a publicly accessible urban park located centrally within the town of Houghton Regis. It plays an important role in the history, culture and landscape of the local area.  The Renaissance and Renewal Project, a partnership between Central Bedfordshire Council and Houghton Regis Town Council and made possible by National Lottery players through a £2.19m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund, aims to restore the vitality of the park, celebrating local heritage and improving visitor facilities to meet the needs of a growing local community.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery @HLFEoE

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Take A Childcare Traineeship At The Kingsland Skills Hub

A traineeship could be your first step to your dream career

If you are looking to work in childcare but have no work experience, a traineeship could be perfect for you.

It’s just one of the opportunities that the Central Bedfordshire Academy of Social Work and Early Intervention is offering learners over the coming months.

Traineeships give people with no work experience the chance to gain vital skills both in a classroom setting and in a local nursery or pre-school.

Megan Rump started her dream of working in childcare by doing a traineeship and is now a year and a half into a two-year Advanced Childcare Apprenticeship at Downside Pre-School, in Dunstable where she will achieve a Level 3 Diploma in Early Years Education.

She said: “When I finished college I was finding it very difficult to find work. So, I went to 4YP, who are a charity, and the lady there was really helpful and got me on to a traineeship.

“I really enjoyed the traineeship – you get lots of support when you are doing it and I was with a small group of really nice people. I did work experience for two days a week at Downside and they liked me and offered me an apprenticeship.

“I would say to anyone thinking to do a traineeship to just have a go. It gives you a chance to see if you really want to do something before you get too involved.”

If that’s inspired you then our next traineeship taster day is on Wednesday, 30 August, from 10am to 3pm at Kingsland Employment and Skills Hub, Parkside Drive, Houghton Regis, LU5 5PY.

For more information, visit or check out @academyinspiringfutures on Facebook.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Will Your Road Be Salted During Extreme Weather?

When the snow falls, will you be able to get to work? And will the wheels of local business be able to carry on turning?

Central Bedfordshire Council is seeking the public’s views on the planned routes that the council (and its emergency services partners) have identified as a priority in the event of extreme weather.

A 'Resilient Highways Network' identifies the particular roads that would be given priority during adverse events, such as extreme weather. When extreme weather occurs (floods, storms, ice, snow etc), the main concern for Central Bedfordshire Council will be to keep these roads open in order to maintain economic activity to town centres, industrial estates and business parks, and access to key services such as schools, railway stations, key food shops, petrol stations, hospitals, police, fire services etc.

These are the main roads around Dunstable and Houghton Regis that they will aim to keep open:
View the full list
The consultation is open from 7 August 2017 until 30 October 2017. You can have your say by answering a questionnaire on the Council's website or you can pick up a paper copy from the library.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Red House Roof Issues - A Cause For Concern

By Alan Winter
Ridge tiles off, and clay roof tiles missing. This was the sorry state of the roof of a Grade II Listed Building in Houghton Regis this morning. The building, known as The Red House, is owned by Central Bedfordshire Council who say they will be erecting scaffolding "this summer".

Concern was raised on social media at the end of July by a former town councillor, Deborah Hamill, who wrote, "Went to the bottle bank this afternoon, tiles off the roof in places, fence down looks completely run down. The next thing you will be telling us it has to come down because it hasnt been protected!!! For goodness sake we let planners ruin our village years ago, lets look after what we have left!!!"

Central Bedfordshire Council issued a statement at the end of July saying, "Over the summer scaffolding will be going up around the Grade II listed Red House. This will allow us to carry out a full structural survey of the property to work out what needs to be done to retain this important asset and keep it safe. Once the survey has been completed, we will be applying for Listed Building consent to undertake works to prevent further deterioration, and will use traditional materials where possible to maintain the character of the building."

The Red House is owned by Central Bedfordshire Council and was occupied by tenants who were moved out, and the place was then boarded up as a precaution against intruders. The house been incorporated into 'Houghton Regis Central', a new development for an independent living scheme for older people. The main new building will provide 170 living units and will include the demolition of Red House Court in Clarke's Way. Residents from Red House Court are expected to be among the first to occupy the new building when it is constructed.

The Council are in talks with the Houghton Regis Heritage Society over the future use of the Red House, currently boarded up.  No decision has been made and the Council add that they will continue to work with the Heritage Society and keep them involved in future discussions and meetings.

Roger Turner, from the Heritage Society, confirmed on 23 July, "The Heritage Society expressed concern to CBC about the current state of the Red House and when we met with CBC recently, we were told that repairs to the roof will start very soon. Scaffolding will be put up and tarpaulins put over to protect it whilst work us underway. A lot of work will be done inside to make the building water tight and safe. The Heritage Society will be working with CBC to plan the future use of the Red House."

  • As you can see from these pictures, there are no tarpaulins up.

One of the ward's CBC councillors, Cllr Susan Goodchild wrote in response to points made on social media, "The funding for the Houghton Central development which includes the Red House is being funded from the Central Bedfordshire Council's housing revenue account. I am sure you are aware of the huge benefits that this provision will provide to our residents now and for many years to come. I am delighted with the work that the Houghton Regis Heritage Society is undertaking in having very meaningful discussions with Central Bedfordshire Council and supporting them shape to [the] provision of the Red House. Just another example of the amazing voluntary community groups which we have in our Town. It is helping our community to become stronger and hopefully sustainable in the years to come."

Planning permission for the site redevelopment was approved in November 2016 subject to various conditions about conserving the heritage of the area and site, protecting local residents’ privacy and safeguarding the boundary of the site.

Alan Batham wrote on Social Media in December 2016, "My mum n dad lived here for years when it was split into 2 flats. Its a beautiful old building, full of features and character, it needs some serious money spent on it to bring it to its former glory but its part of Houghtons history and should be preserved."

Roger Giugno, a local builder wrote in December 2016, "The renovation side of things although extensive could come in at quite a reasonable amount if local companies are put at the top of the preferred bidder list rather than bussing in companies from out of the area and competitive quotes are gained rather than using a select 'circle' of companies."

Darren Coleman-Heald wrote on 26th July, "At the rate it is deteriorating there will be nothing left to incorporate".

Andy Swain-y, on 28th July was concerned, "The question needs to be asked why on earth was it allowed to get in this state in the first place, there's only one reason why you let something sit and Decay you want it gone, it will probably look out of place when all the new buildings are in place so let's run it down have a survey and say it's in disrepair."

Roger Giugno was even less impressed, commenting, "here we have a blatant abuse by CBC of neglect and it aint going to happen. Councils and cllrs long gone have ruined Houghtons Heritage and this is one last remaining building that should be preserved."

Artist impressions of the house and finished development:

THE RED HOUSE- "Extract from Historic Building Assessment by Albion Archeology" 

The building comprises a 2½-storey primary range dating from the 17th century with a two-storey rear extension and a single-storey southern range.
The primary range has a 2½-bay plan. The half bay in the middle of the house contains a central chimney stack, lobby entrance and a circulation space at the rear of the stack. The bay to the south of the stack is slightly longer than the bay to the north. The rooms comprise two ground floor living rooms, two first-floor bedrooms and a landing on the south side of the stack. The attic rooms are currently only accessible from a hatch in the ceiling of the first-floor landing.
The two-storey extension extends across the rear of the middle and northern bays. It consists of a single storey outshot to which a first-floor extension was added in the 20th century. On the ground floor, it has been extended into the primary range with an open timber partition marking the line of the former rear wall of the primary range. This room is currently a kitchen and hall with stairs to the first-floor landing.
The southern range is a former 19th-century outbuilding which was converted for residential use in the 20th century. It contains a bathroom, toilet, kitchen and bedroom. Read more ... 

  • UPDATE 10th August - Scaffolding Goes Up.