Notice of Motion - Safer Streets Champion
The Leader of the Council moved the following Motion for the appointment of a Safer Streets Champion. This was seconded by Councillor Graham Bridgman.
“We are all conscious that, whilst extreme occurrences such as the recently reported murder of Sarah Everard in Clapham are thankfully rare, the issue of street harassment generally has been brought into sharp focus. Although West Berkshire has low violent crime rates, many residents may share the anxiety of not being able to walk alone without concern for their safety.
Whilst predominantly affecting women, many people will have experienced street harassment at some point in their lives and may have felt obliged to use avoidance tactics - such as crossing the road, circumventing public spaces, and even not going out alone.
The Government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce has said it will take immediate steps following the recent high profile event to give further reassurance to women. Among the proposals is an additional £25m for better lighting, CCTV and a pilot-scheme which would see plain-clothes officers in pubs and clubs. This is to be welcomed.
The Executive recognises that:
• Street harassment is harassment in public areas such as streets, shopping centres, public open spaces and public transport.
• Street harassment may involve sexual harassment, including unwanted sexualised comments, provocative gestures, vehicle honking, being whistled at, stalking, persistent sexual advances, and even being subjected to indecent exposure or touching by strangers.
• Street harassment may also involve other actions or comments and can also frequently include homophobic and transphobic slurs, and verbal abuse referencing race, religion, class and disability.
The Executive proposes that the Council creates the role of a Safer Streets Champion, to be notified annually (with other Champions) at the Annual Meeting of Council, and that the Safer Streets Champion should:
• work with our communities to understand their concerns and receive suggestions for how we want to address street harassment;
• work in partnership with Thames Valley Police to explore a potential bid for Safer Streets Fund funding;
• work closely with the Public Protection Partnership, Thames Valley Police, Town Centre managers and others to challenge and eradicate street harassment in our district;
• seek to develop better public awareness of what constitutes street harassment and unacceptable behaviours; and
• work with our three West Berkshire MPs to seek further powers for the Police to be able to take appropriate action where street harassment is witnessed or reported.”
Councillor Lee Dillon explained that he did not disagree with the Motion, but he questioned the mechanism which had been used to bring it forward by the Administration and whether a Special Council would have been a preferable route to approval by the Executive. He questioned whether Opposition Members would be granted the same flexibility with the Constitution.
Councillor Doherty explained that subject to Executive approval, a recommendation would be made to Annual Council to appoint a Safer Streets Champion alongside appointments to other Champion roles. It was felt timely to bring this forward at this time in advance of Annual Council and was a route permitted via the Council’s Constitution.
Sarah Clarke confirmed that subject to Executive approval, this would form part of the appointments and allocations of seats report which included appointment of Council Champions.
Councillor Erik Pattenden queried how much resourcing would be put in place in relation to this role. Councillor Doherty responded that it was a Member Champion role. The Safer Communities Partnership would be involved working across the necessary partners. However, it was important to understand what was required at a community level before being able to answer that question more fully, and whether work would take place beyond the current remit of the Safer Communities Partnership.
Councillor Graham Bridgman stated that this work would also have linkages with the Building Communities Together Partnership. This was an area which would fall within his new Portfolio and therefore he would be taking a close interest in this. He considered the Member role to be around messaging and it was important to have a figurehead to do so.
He noted concerns raised in relation to the Constitution, but this was something he had looked into and this approach was felt to be the most appropriate way to progress this within a short timescale ahead of Annual Council.
RESOLVED to recommend to Annual Council the appointment of a Safer Streets Champion.