IN VIDEO: Potholes, infrastructure and policing debated at annual Tamworth Listens event

March 19, 2018

POTHOLES, police presence on the streets and Tamworth’s struggling infrastructure were among some of the hot topics tackled at this week’s Tamworth Listens Question Time style event.

Around 20 people attended the event at Tamworth Landau Forte Academy Sixth Form on Monday March 12 to put their questions to a panel of town leaders and Tamworth Informed were there to record the entire event for our readers to watch.

The two-hour debate was based on the council’s three strategic priorities of living a quality life, growing strong together and delivering quality services in Tamworth.

The panel was made up of the Leader of Tamworth Borough Council, Cllr Daniel Cook, Staffordshire County Councillor for the Bolebridge Ward, Cllr Jeremy Oates and Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis.

A variety of questions were asked, which made for an interesting debate covering a number of topics that are of concern to members of the community.

Watch the whole event here:

These included the number of police officers, PCSOs and community wardens on the streets of Tamworth, illegal or dangerous parking outside schools, strategic measures being taken to ensure Tamworth’s roads and infrastructure can cope with the number of new homes being built, potholes and how councillors engage with members of the public.

In terms of community wardens, Cllr Cook said Tamworth is now in a minority of councils that still fund a community warden scheme, and wardens continue to do great work in the community.

On the issue of planning, Cllr Cook explained that Tamworth has to deliver 6,250 new homes between 2006 and 2031. When sites are allocated for development in the Local Plan, traffic and infrastructure impact assessments are carried out as part of those deliberations. Problems arise when neighbouring authorities plan large developments on Tamworth’s borders, such as the Arkall Farm plan for 1,000 homes, as these will inevitably impact on Tamworth roads and services, despite not being in the borough.

He said Tamworth councillors, across parties, are now trying to involve neighbouring authorities such as Lichfield and North Warwickshire councils in strategic discussions where the combined impacts of developments can be assessed across boundaries, rather than each planning application being determined in isolation.

Several questions were asked about potholes and Cllr Oates advised that Staffordshire County Council invested £5million in the current financial year and has allocated a further £5million in the coming year towards pothole repair. He said that more than 35,000 potholes have been filled since April last year – compared to 20,000 the previous financial year. Despite this there is still a backlog. County councillors continue to push for more funding in this area, but Tamworth is attracting around 10% of the county workload and budget.

Cllr Oates said it would be helpful if residents could use the MyStaffs App to report potholes as this facility allows the county to identify if a certain pothole has already been inspected – thereby reducing the need for inspectors to inspect the same pothole twice.

Matthew Ellis told the audience he has made extra money available for the Chief Constable to boost Neighbourhood Policing in Staffordshire over the next two years. He also said that Staffordshire’s new response hub model is designed to enable neighbourhood police officers to remain in their local communities where possible, rather than being called out on response. He said the nature of crime is changing with more cybercrime and fraud and policing is changing to meet those demands.

In response to the issue of parking outside schools, Mr Ellis said he wants to encourage schools to work in partnership with the police for safer parking and that safety initiatives can be supported by his People Power Fund. 

Audience members gave examples of where community organisations, such as churches, are working in partnership with schools to provide safe drop off areas.

Mr Ellis also encouraged members of the public to download the Staffordshire Smart Alert app which he introduced in 2016 and allows residents to play a more active role in their communities and help Staffordshire Police stop criminals in their tracks.

The questions and answers will now be used as part of this year’s State of Tamworth Debate which will see all 30 councillors discussing what has been achieved over the last 12 months and considering plans for the future. Members of the public are invited to listen to the debate, which takes place in the Council Chamber at Marmion House on Thursday, March 22, from 6pm.

Cllr Cook said: “This is the fifth year we have held the Tamworth Listens event and while we are happy to take and answer questions from our residents at any time, this session gives people the opportunity to enter into a meaningful discussion with several town leaders at the same time, face to face. I believe it is a two-way conversation with residents setting out their thoughts on Tamworth and its public services and local politicians setting out future plans and the complications in delivering those public services.

“Although it would have been nice to see a few more people there, those who did attend put some good questions to the panel which I hope were answered to their satisfaction. I would like to thank those who engaged in the process for their thoughts and feedback as this is what helps us shape the way we run public services for the town.”