Local councillors are not being told enough about what the police are doing in their wards

Thursday August 24th 2023

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Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

Community sergeants at meetings in Whitburn and Linlithgow were this week grilled about the lack of detail about police activity in the wards in their reports to councillors.

And one senior councillor branded the police reports delivered to local area committees as “cut and paste”, with no relevance to communities they were supposedly addressing.

The issue is one that has been raised before, since the way local police reporting changed a few years ago, and West Lothian Council is currently in discussions with Police Scotland over the provision of greater analysis of local crime figures and trends.

Kirsteen Sullivan, depute leader of the council, said greater information would help concentrate resources where they were most needed.

Speaking at the Whitburn and Blackburn local area committee on Monday, Labour councillor Sullivan admitted that it was a question she had asked police at every meeting of the Local Area Committee. “ Do you have any further update on when we are going to get more detailed reports?” she asked of community Sergeant Mike Harte.

And SNP councillor Mary Dickson said: “It’s helpful to know what’s going on in your ward. Often you get challenged by constituents.”

On Tuesday Sgt Lee Brodie faced similar questions from veteran Labour councillor Tom Conn.

He told the Linlithgow Local Area Committee: “This is not a criticism of local officers but the report is cut and paste. It has no relevance to Linlithgow that I can see and issues we raised don’t seem to be getting attention by the police.”

“We have to look for information in the report. It’s too generic and has limited information as far as this community is concerned.”

Defending the report Sgt Brodie responded: “I would disagree that there’s no local context.”

He went on to list local issues he had mentioned in the police report delivered to the LAC including the Marches festival in June, reports of a hate crime and anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

“At the end of each section there’s one or two pars on the work my team are actually carrying out. There is local context though I appreciate it is anecdotal rather than statistical but it does add a flavour of what we are doing.”

He added: “The local authority liaison officer writes the majority of the report I then add extra information for a local flavour – some of it is West Lothian wide The police information system doesn’t allow us to drill down to specific individual wards. It is a national system and just doesn’t allow that area focus.”

Lead council officer for the Linlithgow committee Graeme Struthers said that the council was keen to fund an analyst’s post with the police to provide much more granular information covering the wards. That proposal remains with senior police officers.

Chairing the meeting, Councillor Sally Pattle said: “I would say that this is a vast improvement on the last one we had at the May meeting. That was probably the nadir for me. I think you have taken on board the comments we have made.

“I can see that you have tried to bring more local knowledge, but we do appreciate how stretched that you are.

Councillor Pauline Orr added that she appreciated what had been done. “I can see an improvement in the reports. Baby steps, as they say. It’s about continued feedback.”

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