The March meeting was chaired by Richard Roffe with seven councillors present and Hubert Warren, Clerk to the Council, Ward Cllr. John Holdich OBE, Sqn/Ldr. K. L. Merrison RAF representative, Insp. Rob Hill (Cambridgeshire Police) and MOD Pc. Andy Grainge in attendance.
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr. Robin Talbot and Ward Cllt. Diane Lamb.
Insp. Rob Hill reported that Cambridgeshire Police are currently undergoing a full restructuring to take effect in April, designed to meet stringent government budget cuts and ensure maximum efforts to improve service to the community.
No reductions are to be made in front line policing and numbers are being bolstered in some areas by returning office staff to street duties. Reductions in the number of support and senior management roles for each area are also being made. At present Wittering policing has been provided by two officers working in the community, but they cover 22 villages (Barnack Ward/Glinton & Wittering Ward) with the consequence that when they are off-duty, no-one is specifically aligned to this area. Regarding police response, officers working from Thorpewood HQ respond to calls for service from the whole City of Peterborough and have been directed by a multiplicity of inspectors/managers. Historically the majority of calls for service come from urban areas and there is rarely involvement in rural areas unless specifically directed. In April 2012 Peterborough will be divided into 3 areas (North, South and Eastern) with Insp. Hill as North Sector Commander taking full charge of approximately one third of Peterborough’s 72 officers and deploying them more efficiently. Rural West area including Wittering will be covered by 5 constables working round the clock. Coming primarily from Thorpewood HQ to wherever the need arises, they will be local officers for this area and directed to engage with the community and increase visibility. Additionally, there will be two PCSO,s exclusively covering the Glinton & Wittering Ward. Insp. Hill commented that it will inevitably take a little time for all the changes to settle in, but he envisaged improved and more directed policing support for the community.
The chairman expressed concern that there had been 3 serious cases in six months of metal theft from underground cables on the A1 150 yards from Wittering, which had caused considerable inconvenience to the village but no apparent action by the police. In reply Insp. Hill commented that this criminal activity was not unique to Wittering and had become a very serious national problem. Notwithstanding regular police patrols on the A1 it was very difficult to cover all areas and be in the right place at the right time to catch criminals at their work. It is far too easy at present for metal thieves to sell their ill-gotten gains for cash and scrap dealers are being targeted to ban cash payments and maintain proper accounting systems.
The chairman was also concerned regarding the vulnerability of a high proportion of young women in the village who are single parents in the absence of their husbands/partners serving in the RAF abroad. This would become of increasing concern now that the protection of the MOD police is being withdrawn. Insp. Hill commented that he had no jurisdiction to force the RAF to provide this cover.
Another serious matter raised was the ‘cold calling’ of con men/women either posing as legitimate officials/salespeople when a door was opened, or opportunistic breaking and entering if the house owner was absent.
After a short further question and answer period before leaving the meeting, Insp. Hill emphasised the importance of reporting suspicious behaviour or activities promptly to the police and that he was always available to discuss local problems passed to him.
MOD Pc. Andy Grainge confirmed that he will be leaving the village in 6 week’s time following the announcement regarding the withdrawal of MOD police co-operation with Cambs. Constabulary in the village. Sqn/Ldr. K. L. Merrison confirmed that the decision to end the involvement of the MOD police in local security matters outside the RAF station was taken by the MOD not the Station Commander and there were no plans to fill the vacuum. Security issues were now focused within the station and RAF services overseas. This priority was not a matter of choice and the decision to make cuts could not be argued against. However the regular patrol of the RAF police car during the day and night will continue to keep a watchful eye on the village.
Minutes of the fourth meeting of the council held on Thursday, 2nd. February, 2012, were reviewed, approved and signed by the Chairman.
Reports of insecure fencing and serious rubbish pollution of the electricity sub-station adjacent to the A1 were passed to the appropriate responsible authorities and urgent action was taken to repair the fencing and clear the rubbish. The chairman had subsequently visited the site and was impressed by the work that had been done.
Following complaints of large amounts of litter outside the Spar shop in St. George’s Road, litterbins had been installed and the area was now clean and tidy.
Hubert Warren will be retiring as Clerk to the Parish Council at the end of March after 22 years service and Mrs. Deirdre McCumiskey has been appointed to succeed him in the post from April 1st.
Mr. Warren will continue to act as booking manager for the parish hall for a further year. In view of the rapid escalation of running costs over the past five years especially for gas, electricity, water and sewerage, a new scale of hire charges will be applicable from 1st.April 2012.
Plans are being made for the village to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in style, centred on an open family day-out on the recreation field with a hog roast barbecue, free soft drinks, various games and sports and the children’s play area fully available. Volunteers are being recruited to help with specific activities
Other matters raised to be followed up with the relevant authorities by the clerk where appropriate -:
Potholes on the Old Oundle Road
Damaged drain cover near the Church.
Provision of a dog waste bin at the bottom of Hall Lane .
Painting of outside seating for the Bowls Club.
The next meeting will be held in the community meeting room of the bowls pavilion on Thursday, 10th. May 2012.. Annual meeting of parishioners at 7.00 p.m followed immediately by the AGM of the parish council 2012/2013 at 7.30 p.m.