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Winter 2013 Newsletter

Hue and Cry

By our roving crime correspondent.

David Lloyd, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, visited Park Hall on 26th September to address members of the Society and the public. He said our police do a good job, but victims of crime get lost in the system, and he described his efforts to put victims at the heart of what he is doing.

He surprised us by saying that Harpenden, and indeed Hertfordshire, has a low crime rate and a high conviction rate, though that is not a good reason for leaving our doors unlocked. He is endeavouring to make big budget cuts on our behalf without jeopardising the effectiveness of the police.

He also described his efforts to involve the community with policing, through volunteers such as Neighbourhood Watch and Catch a Speeder.

Above left: Alan Jackson, The Society's Public Order spokesman with David Lloyd Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire.

The purpose of The Society is as 'a non-political voice promoting the well-being of the town, as critical friend and watchdog over those providing public, voluntary and commercial services.' This purpose is enshrined in our legal status as a registered charity. The Chairman and Committee are, in legal terms, the 'trustees', obligated to ensuring that we keep to this remit. The Society, of course, relies heavily on a strong membership for its financial and general support and engagement, not least through its opportunity to criticise the 'trustees' at the AGM and, if it feels like it, to elect new ones.

What it is not is a charity providing a direct service to its members or representing its members' personal views. It is not, in that regard, like a political party or faith organisation and it might be illicit in charity law for the Committee to so proceed.

We make this statement because recently one or two members have seemed to have misunderstood The Society's legitimate role. This appears to happen when issues are raised which, as is often the case, are controversial. Opinion is then divided – the Committee finds itself divided at times on some matters. Then the Committee has to come to a majority decision and its members, largely speaking, accept that collective decision. However, its legally binding task is to arrive at what in good faith is its view of what would be best for Harpenden as a whole and to promote that view forcibly.

Our hope is that usually the majority of members will agree with such decisions but more important than that is the hope that the majority of people in Harpenden will think likewise. You, as members, are our key supporters, we are happy to consult you and hear your views and it would be impossible to function without a membership. Thank you for that support. Without the thousand or so members who back us so generously the Committee would not be able to work for the benefit of the thirty thousand townsfolk – and, of course, their thousands of descendants - we truly and legally exist to help.

Mission Statement for Members

Alan Jackson, The Society's Public Order spokesman, has more advice to offer, bravely gathered, as you will read, at first hand.

The incidence of domestic break-ins in North Harpenden is currently unacceptably high compared to the incidence of such crimes elsewhere in the St Albans District. 'Operation Scorpion' is one of the responses of the Police to this situation. Unmarked cars are actively patrolling the area at night (when Alan recently confronted a suspicious car at night it turned out to be part of this operation...) 'Operation Scorpion' is Hertfordshire's initiative to drive down serious acquisitive crime by relentlessly pursuing criminals and bringing them to justice.

Operation Scorpion

Power to the People over Power

Passing mention was made in these columns recently to the government initiative that urged local authorities and community groups to engage in collective purchasing of energy. 'Collective Switching', as it is known, involves consumers making negotiating jointly for group deals with their electricity and gas suppliers. With one in five households now officially suffering from 'fuel poverty' and bills rising all the time, these schemes have gained significantly in traction since being introduced, with local councils taking a lead.

150 councils have now adopted the initiative and 285,000 households have benefited. The average annual savings for these homes has been £125. This represents a 10% saving on the average British dual-fuel bill. This must be a welcome boost to household budgeting.

A nod's as good as a wink...just a gentle hint that maybe such a scheme might find appreciative support in Harpenden.

Some communities have gone beyond collective purchasing. They have actually become involved in the production and ownership of local energy and some think-tanks argue that sustainable solutions to the energy problem are only possible with this degree of consumer participation. The usage of wind turbines, whatever their merits, has provided opportunities in this direction, with consumer co-operatives popping up all over the place, from Oxfordshire to Stirlingshire, and bringing savings and other benefits to communities.

One step at a time, though...but 'Collective Switching' seems worth a thought. Should the Town Council and/or The Harpenden Society be having that thought?