Tuesday, 12 May 2015

From parking to major crimes on the PACT variety bill.

There are times when, in the best possible way, a PACT meeting resembles nothing so much as an old time variety bill, last night was just such an occasion.

First into the spotlight was Mike Brown, head of facilities at Royal Stoke University Hospital, an avuncular chap well known to regular attenders. Its a good job too since he usually has the same song to sing, namely that building work at the hospital, a source of endless problems, is making progress slowly, usually too slowly for the public mood.

Last night was no different, Arup have been completed a report into parking requirements at the RSUH site and this will be turned into 'a strategy document detailing the available options for increasing the Trust's car parking capacity in the future', meaning building a multi-storey car park somewhere on site for those of us who don't speak bureaucrat. This, along with the opening up of other car parks on site should reduce the problem, someday soon, probably.

Amongst the issues raised in questions from the audience were the continued use of the former Royal Infirmary site for non medical services and the problems speed humps on the hospital site cause for people travelling by ambulance. In the latter case Mr Brown said the trust were aware of the issue and were attempting to address it in the long term through tougher enforcement of speed limits.

If Mike Brown is a cheery uncle then Nigel Eggleton of First Bus is a stern headmaster, another familiar face to PACT regulars he's long since perfected the habit of gripping the lectern and leaning forward as he speaks you see in junior ministers giving bad news to a restive house.

He spoke about the 'consolidation' that had taken place in the local public transport market recently with Bakers and Wardles leaving the game and D and G taking on their vacated routes, suggesting, he said, that things were 'less healthy' than he'd like them to be.

On a brighter note First have taken delivery of ten new buses, the start of the slow modernisation of their 'elderly' fleet; passenger numbers on the controversial number 3 route have also continued to grow.

Mr Eggleton took questions on private operators not working together, something that is to the disadvantage of operators and passengers alike, he agreed this did cause problems and said thing may change when a new council leader and cabinet are in place. On the review of evening bus services carried out by First leading to timetable changes he said further cuts may be in the pipeline.

Liam Rider and Marcus Barber of Staffordshire Police gave a talks on, respectively, the work of the local CID and the force's forensic investigators.

The CID, said Mr Rider, deal with any crime that requires a complex or protracted investigation, these range from burglary through fraud to murder. Locally the most common issues dealt with by the CID involve burglary, largely due to the area's high student population although Stoke is by no manes a hotspot for this type of crime.

He then answered questions on the role played by drugs in serious crimes, saying that they were indeed a major cause as addicts resort to ever more desperate measures to fund their habit. The police service was, he said, working with other agencies to help offenders break free from the cycle of addiction, crime and imprisonment.

Asked whether spending cuts had impacted on the ability of the police service to investigate major crimes Mr Rider said that has not happened yet and that steps were being taken to manage costs through the use of non-warranted officers for some tasks.

The forensics investigators attached to Staffordshire police, said Marcus Barber, also investigate the full range of crimes from domestic burglaries to murders that make the headlines. Their work involves detecting and analysing hairs, fibres, blood stains and traces of body fluids that might provide evidence leading to a conviction, in recent years the number of investigators employed by the service has gone down and may be reduced further by ongoing spending cuts.

Their work, he said at some length suggesting he's a man tired of being asked the question at parties, is nothing like its television portrayal. They don't 'walk into the room and spot straight away the single hair on the carpet that will unravel to whole case', and, of course, nobody calls 'cut' so the shot can be set up again if they make a mistake.

Last up was Michael Clarke, Team Manager for Parking and Enforcement for Stoke-on-Trent City Council, a pantomime villain or hero of the people depending on whether you've been given a ticket or had the space outside your house kept clear. Actually he's an ordinary man doing a difficult job where its almost certain he's going to upset somebody before the day is out.

He spoke about the council's use of mobile enforcement vehicles equipped with cameras to catch people who park illegally, particularly outside schools. The council had, he said, recruited six more enforcement officers, none of whom will ever receive a ticker-tape parade from a thankful public, but without whom parking would be even more of a nightmare.

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