‘Speak up, Crime Commissioner’

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Rye's councillor Mary Smith, right, is unhappy that Katy Bourne has not answered her questions about the dangers of a lack of parking management in the town

The correspondence published below is between Mary Smith, a Rye councillor, and the department serving Katy Bourne, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner. The letters show increasing frustration with the commissioner’s office for a lack of response to queries about the recent incidents in Rye in which illegally parked vehicles blocked the progress of firemen answering emergency calls within the town centre [see Rye’s burning issue]:

Dear Mrs Bourne,
I am disappointed not to have received any acknowledgement of my last email to your office, sent a full week ago. My question, posed on November 9 was very simple, but remained unanswered in your officer’s response of November 18. I therefore contacted your office again that day to repeat my enquiry. No response.

I asked what you had done and what you proposed to do to bring about a solution to the very real dangers posed by lack of traffic management to the medieval heart of Rye. Access for fire appliances has been blocked twice and only by sheer good fortune has a serious fire not broken out.  I am aware that others have contacted you to express their concerns, including Rye’s MP. Is she still awaiting a response to correspondence of early October? As well as the Rye online newspaper?

Some people comment that you have, however, found sufficient time to supply a video log and photographs of yourself in different outfits to the Rye Observer website and conclude that this indicates the lower priority that you assign to the safety of Rye and its residents. It would be most reassuring to hear from you of positive actions you are taking with the police and higher councils to safeguard the town. Kind regards,

Cllr Mary Smith
Rye Town Councillor

Smith’s email was in response to this email from Natacha Skelton [dated Nov 18 2014], a governance and monitoring officer, working for the commissioner:

Dear Cllr Smith,
Thank you for your e-mail to the Police & Crime Commissioner. I am conscious that you have written to this office earlier this year, so I do not want to repeat what Chief Insp Franklin and my colleague Graham Kane have already written to you on this subject. I am copying Chief Inspector Franklin into this e-mail for his information. Mrs Bourne met with Chief Insp Franklin last week to discuss the issue of parking and its enforcement in Rother. The enforcement of parking on the roads and highways throughout most of the county is the responsibility of the local authority. It is a matter for East Sussex County Council and Rother District Council to include Rother as a civil enforcement area. Sussex Police and the commissioner will continue to work in partnership with them to achieve this.

Please be assured that Sussex Police will always respond and deal with dangerous obstructions, parking on double yellow lines and the misuse of Blue Badges, in conjunction with other duties and responsibilities – however this will not be targeted activity. Effective parking enforcement is a full-time responsibility and covering this demand is not always the best use of limited police resources, however I would encourage you to always report any dangerous situations to Sussex Police.

The commissioner regularly meets with the chief constable to work towards improving local policing issues and the correspondence received by the Office of the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner is used to inform these discussions and identify local priorities. Kind regards,

Natacha Skelton
Office of the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner

The same day Smith sent this reply:

Dear Ms Skelton and Mrs Bourne,
Thank you for the reply from Ms Skelton. I note that you encourage the reporting to police of dangerous situations, but in the event of a future fire taking hold in the medieval buildings of Rye, with fire appliances again blocked, a phone call to police is not going to help much, is it? My query asked what action the commissioner has taken and is prepared to take to bring about a solution with the police and higher councils. I note that Mrs Bourne met with Chief Insp Franklin last week “to discuss the issue of parking and enforcement in Rother”. Did any resolutions result from this meeting?

Could you itemise the other actions the commissioner proposes to take, for example initiating meetings of the police with ESCC and Rother? I am sure that you do not mean to assign “no priority” to the very real danger that Rye faces, but there is very little evidence, so far, of much action. I look forward to a more detailed and reassuring response. Kind Regards

Cllr Mary Smith