I was invited by councillors Richard Ball and Ted Fry to attend the Compton Ward Have Your Say meeting on Tuesday 25th February. Prior to the invite I did not know these meetings existed and since being made aware of them I have found that the majority of people I spoke to had no knowledge of these meetings either.
I had notified a few Mutley Traders but had not been able to give them much notice so unfortunately I was one of only two representatives from Mutley at the meeting. The other Mutley representative was Jeanne Hinton from the Mutley Greenbank Trust.
The meeting was held at Emmanuel Church and was attended by approximately 35 people. Councillors Ball, Fry and David Stark were in attendance and were accompanied by a council officer who minuted the meeting. There was also Sergeant Dom Nicholls and PCSO Stewart Marshall were also in attendance. The remaining attendees were mainly residents from Hartley, Mannamead and Lower and Higher Compton.
Upon arrival we are given an agenda for the meeting and a copy of the minutes of previous meetings. Judging from the previous minutes and the agenda the focus of the meeting was clearly directed to wards the affluent areas of Hartley, Mannamead and higher and Lower Compton and Mutley seemed to have been rather forgotten. In fact Mutley is so forgotten that one gentleman addressed me as he thought I was at the wrong meeting as he didn't realise Mutley was within the Compton boundaries!
The first part of the meeting focused on presentations, these apparently are where cheques from community funds (that's tax payers money to you and I) are given to local groups and the councillors get to decide who gets what. All of the groups awarded cheques at the meeting where Christian faith groups or churches which I found rather alarming considering we live in an area with many religions and faiths and an ever growing number of atheists and humanist. (I should point out that I consider myself to be a humanist so this does make me biased). The presentations were one of my main reasons for attending the meeting as I had been told that Emmanuel Church had been given £1700 for hi-tec CCTV, I wanted to challenge this decision and query how presentations are prioritised. Emmanuel Church is situated in an area of extremely low crime (probably one of the lowest crime areas in Plymouth. You can check this face on the police crime map). I wanted to know why know presentations had been made to Mutley an area with a desperate need for increased CCTV.
When raising my concern I was told that no concerns had been raised about Mutley and that money could not be given to help businesses. Obviously no concerns had been raised at the meetings as Mutley people weren't informed about said meetings. As I continued to challenge the nature of the presentation to Emmanuel Church I was addressed by the manager of Emmanuel Church who listed 2 crimes in the past 10 years, this is an extremely low crime rate, to my horror the £1700 wasn't the only payment made to Emmanuel Church, another sum of £1400 had been given for metal reinforcements for the windows. On top of this similar sums had been given to 2 other churches in the area. I must add to this that Compton Ward Have Your Say meetings are always held in one of three churches again all in the richer end of the ward. I would like to see meetings held in non-religious establishments in the future and this is something I will address with my local councillors along with other follow up comments from the meeting.
I should at this point list a few other group within the ward that have been given money and they include Compton Church Of England School, Plymouth Croquet Club, Plymouth Street Pastors and several local scout and girl guide groups.
The majority of the meeting was occupied by local residents complaining about parking issues, it appears that most of the parking problems are caused by people parking in Mutley and Mannamead to either walk to work in Mutley or to get on a bus to go to work in town. If only our council could dream up some radical free parking options for both Mutley and the City Centre to provide a much needed boost for local businesses as well as some parking respite for residents.
Jeanne Hinton addressed the group to talk about a possible art project to help breath new life into Mutley, it sounds like an exciting project and one which Mutley Traders will be consulted on now we have a voice again.
Another issue was raised over the safety of kids outside schools, apparently the increased parking problems were causing traffic chaos outside schools, it seems ironic that this issue is so close to local peoples hearts at a time when Plymouth City Council is getting rid of lollipop patrols.
A valuable point was raised by another attendee who pointed out that schools are being asked to take on increasing numbers of pupils and class sizes are increasing which will only increase the safety risks and parking issues.
My final comment from the meeting was to respond to points made by Ball and Fry about how they have dealt with anti-social behaviour in Hartley and Mannamead, reports had been made about teenagers hanging around in a bus stop causing a nuisance to residents, the response to this was to remove the bus stop, the second incident involved anti-social behaviour in Channel Park, the response to this was to shut the whole park. I strongly disagree to this approach, we had a similar situation in Greenbank a few years ago when reports were made about street drinkers using park benches so the park benches were removed. We should not be removing public facilities just to prevent offences by the minority, there are more pro-active ways of dealing with such problems and as we found in Greenbank the bench removal did not stop the problem, it just moved it elsewhere.
After the meeting I was warmly greeted by all three councillors who offered their support to both myself and the newly forming Mutley Traders Group, they assured me they would attend Mutley Traders meetings in the future. The two police officers also offered their support to the Mutley Traders.
The next Compton ward Have Your Say meeting will be held on Tuesday 25th March 2014 at 6.30pm at Compton Methodist Church. I will be attending and will write a follow up again after the meeting,