On of the things that strikes me about it is how some of the themes, like community and responsibility also come out strongly in the national manifesto. Given that the two were drawn up independently (and I wouldn’t pretend that ours would have influenced the national one anyway) it’s interesting to see how basic Conservative principles have shaped both documents.
One of the things I think we do well in Wandsworth is enabling people to take responsibility for their own lives. The flagship of this is the low council tax, meaning people keep as much of their own money as possible. But I’m rather pleased with the contributions Wandsworth’s community safety team offer.
Neighbourhood Watch is perhaps the most obvious example, but we are always out and about offering advice and practical help and working with partners, like the police or fire brigade to residents.
A lesser known example is AlertBox, which was relatively recently installed in Northcote Road. The system is remarkably simple, a box with a few buttons that can be used to pass custom alerts to neighbouring shops with a linked unit. These can range from a low-level alert (perhaps a few suspicious people loitering) to a request for immediate help.
The AlertBoxes went in a series of smaller retailers on Northcote Road a few months ago and the manufacturer shared their recent appraisal with me. It’s been a clear success – 100% of people who had to use the box had a response from neighbouring shops. 91% felt it had reduced fear of isolation and 80% felt it had reduced fear of anti-social behaviour.
But most importantly 89% felt it had improved their relationship with neighbouring retailers and 93% felt it had improved their relationship with the police.
A real example of how, in many cases, life massive improvements are possible not with the state providing the solution, but in enabling people to provide the solution – in this case a contribution to the cost and some administrative work in setting it up. A fantastic result for everyone concerned.