Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

On Thursday 3rd May vote for radical change in Tower Hamlets

It is no longer safe to walk the streets of Wapping at night. That is a fact.

It is also a fact that all the candidates of all the parties, both mayoral and local, make much of how they will tackle Anti-Social Behaviour and crime across the borough.

Wapping residents crime & ASB meeting

Here are some quotes from Wapping residents at a meeting with police and councillors to discuss crime in Wapping.

  • “We want to know what you are doing now, not next year.”
  • “We don’t see councillors until there is a local election on.”
  • “Why is it obvious to us that the bushes [in Wapping Woods] need trimming and we need better lighting and not obvious to you?”
  • “There are gangs of youths in every green space in Wapping, drinking, smashing bottles.”
  • “Not everyone uses the Internet so cant check police websites for information”
  • “There are junkies, peeping toms, people having sex in Wapping Woods and what happens when you ring up? Nothing!”
  • “We need to make Wapping Woods more family friendly.”
  • “This problem is not just about Wapping Woods, it is all of Wapping.”
  • “If citizens can’t patrol the area can covert police do it?”

All valid remarks.

All remarks which were made in 2013.

Yep. Five years ago. (The problem is Wapping is not a problem January 8th 2013)

What have the politicians been doing?

Which begs the question what have politicians of the two administrations in power the last five years (Tower Hamlets First, now Aspire, and currently Labour) have been doing?

Not much would seem to be the logical answer.

The police are still fighting an uphill battle despite the savage cuts they have suffered under the guise of the Conservative ‘austerity’ policy.

Which is at least gives the police a genuine reason why the streets of Wapping are no longer safe. (Unless of course you run one of the prostitution rackets which switch between Green Bank and Pennington Street and have your own minders).

Grey BMW car being pursued by a police vehicle lost control and crashed in Vaughan Way, Wapping at its junction with Kennet Street E1W. LONDON 20 FEBRUARY 2017

What excuses do the politicians have?

The Conservative candidate for mayor Dr Anwara Ali MBE has none. In her manifesto she states that “only a Conservative Mayor supported by Conservative Councillors working with a Conservative Government can address the longstanding problems of overdevelopment, crime and ASB and shortage of social housing.”

Less police officers = more crime

This is at best nonsense, at worst hypocrisy. The problems with crime and ASB are directly linked to the cuts in police numbers by the Conservative government which Dr Ali presumably supports.

We could not find any reference to policies to fight crime in the Aspire manifesto (but then we couldn’t find the Aspire manifesto). This should come as no surprise as the Lutfur Rahman Tower Hamlets First administration 2010-2014 is still the subject of the Met’s Operation Lynemouth, a huge investigation into any criminal activity that happened during Lutfur Rahman’s time in power with Ohid Ahmed as his deputy mayor.

Not the natural party of law and order

It does seem that the Aspire party is going to create 1,000 new car parking spaces in the borough (where?) and plant 1,000 new trees too. Maybe the car parking spaces are in the trees?

But we digress. Safe to say that Aspire is not the natural party of law and order in Tower Hamlets.

Which brings us to the third main party, Labour. Mayor Biggs and his team have now had three years in power to start getting things changed for the better but it is hard to find any voter who can see any sign of this. Indeed ask Wapping residents when crime has risen most and they will say in the last three years.

We know ‘cos we ask them and not just before an election.

The streets of Wapping are no longer safe

One good friend of Wapping no longer walks her dog at night because she does not feel safe even with a very protective dog at her side.

Prostitution ring at work in Green Bank Wapping

She, like many others, does not feel that safe in broad daylight either, especially in the summer, because of the very real risk of being mown down by a thug driving his car at speed with no regard for anyone.

Another friend of Wapping works all over London during the day and returns home at all hours. She does not feel safe walking from her car to her front door in Wapping High Street. Recently she needed to go to Tower Bridge after dark, a 12 minute walk from where she lives. She made the sensible decision to drive to St. Katharine’s Dock because she considered it to risky to get there on foot.

Neither of the two women referred to are wilting wallflowers, but they aren’t stupid either.

The 101 system does not work

LW has experienced numerous incidents of crime and ASB to such an extent that calls to 101 are deemed ‘frequent flyer’ by the Met Police control room. We have to confess to giving up calling 101 most of the time because the 101 system does not work. Everyone knows that.

Instead of any attempt to change a broken system we are still exhorted to dial 101 when we see ASB. Wapping residents, like us, do not do ‘the right thing’ most of the time because it is, to be blunt, pointless.

Semaphore – a viable alternative to the 101 system?

If it’s broke let’s fix it

So why not change the way ASB is reported in the borough? And while we are at it change the way it is dealt with?

Tower Hamlets needs radical change. It seems to stumble along from one crisis to the next with the only policy of whoever is in power (if not in control) to cross their fingers and hope that everything is fine.

LW has only been reporting on communities and politicians that supposedly represent them for five years. In that time we have seen nothing change apart from the previous mayor being kicked out of power. And that would not have happened without the work of borough residents.

No simple choices for voters

It would be nice and neat to conclude with a recommendation to vote for Party A, B or C that could offer a clear path towards a better future for every resident.

But we cannot do that. And our opinion is no more valid than that of anyone else anyway.

Local democracy in Tower Hamlets is still moribund – at the point of death. As this recent LW comment piece showed that young members of the Bangladeshi community with fresh ideas, views and the energy to challenge the status quo dare not speak out for fear of retribution.

This is a condemnation of all the political parties who have recently held power. They have no excuses.

So all we can do is ask you to think long and hard before you cast your vote for the next mayor and next local councillors tomorrow.

Cat having a wash at Polling Station 2015

Cat having a wash at Polling Station

Vote for change, not more of the same

Please do not vote for the person or party you voted for last time because…well… you voted for them last time. We can all do better than that.

Think before you mark those little crosses in those little boxes and ask yourself if your vote will make change more likely?

If it does not think again.


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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Michael Smith says:

    I really value your website and the efforts that you go to to keep what is effectively a local newspaper going. You personally deserve real credit for that. You engage the local community on local issues and that’s important.

    I also agree and accept that politicians, national and local, of all parties, should be held to account. And in the small print of your article you do that to some extent.

    But it does feel like, sometimes, your articles have a political agenda which is not entirely transparent, and that makes me mistrusting in the same way that I don’t trust party-aligned national newspapers. I say this simply because of some of the hyperbole, or your “vote for radical change” type comments. It just doesn’t feel like balanced journalism.

    Now, if you had actually extracted the key elements on crime and safety from each manifesto and reproduced them for comparison, in response to local concerns, that would be unbiased reporting and a valuable service to our community, especially as so many people appear concerned according to your articles.

    In same people have done “nothing” you could do some analysis on the performance of our existing councillors. You could have compared and contrasted the amount of time that existing Councillors Denise Jones and Julia Dockerill have recorded working at meetings (council and otherwise) on our behalf by looking through their timesheets
    http://democracy.towerhamlets.gov.uk/mgListTimesheets.aspx?UID=330&SO=0&E=0&DR=01%2f01%2f2017-31%2f12%2f2017

    Alternatively you could look at their attendance record at various meetings, and the number of times they have given apologies if they couldn’t attend.
    http://democracy.towerhamlets.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=330

    From a quick review I can see that, over the last six months, Councillor Jones was present as expected at 22 out of 25 meetings (88%), and had 100% apologies received on 3 meetings. Conversely Councillor Dockerill was present it expected at only 1 out of 6 expected meetings (17%) and only gave apologies for 60% of the other 5 meetings. On the subject of timesheets, they are there month by month for Councillor Jones. According to the website not a single timesheet has been submitted by Councillor Dockerill.

    #Justsaying that that would be a more balanced and useful analysis of the performance of our existing candidates as a proxy for predicting what candidates might do in the future.

    I also tried to find records for number of members enquiries, but couldn’t. Perhaps your investigative journalism skills might help on that area instead.

    Finally, just for the record, I’m a wheelchair user. I’ve lived in Wapping since 1998, so 20 years this August. I feel just as safe walking around the area as I did when I first moved here. I address people that I walk past, smile, say hello (like a true northerner), and say hi to the kids sitting on a wall. In return I get a smile or a hello back (even from the kit). I genuinely don’t think that Wapping has gone to the dogs when it comes to crime and safety.

    • Mark Baynes says:

      I really dislike comments that start off with pleasantries before getting to the point – valid criticism. With a budget of zero (apart from occasional contributions from generous people which usually amounts to £40 a month and a staff of one (excluding the squirrels) it should be no real surprise that we do not achieve balanced journalism. If you want that pay your licence fee (£150 a year) or buy one of the broadsheets. Us? We are free and just scrape by. Last year, as a direct result of not living up to your expectations and spending the last four years investigating corrupt politicians and neglecting the (paying) day job, I lived in a tent in Wapping for a year because that was the only option I had to continue what I do (for free. Did I mention that?). Not a big deal to be honest, I quite enjoyed it even when it was snowing, but not for everyone I suppose. And nowhere to plug my laptop in of course apart from the Turks Head (thanks for the electricity Ronald and Georgia!).

      Do we have a political agenda? Yes, it is to get people off their fat arses (or thin arses) and vote. We don’t care how to be honest as long as they just vote once for a hopefully honest candidate. As you may have gathered I think that this borough is so far away from normal politics that to talk of Labour v Conservative v Lib Dems v Green v Aspire v PATH in normal terms if fairly redundant. One of my side projects at the moment is working out which candidates standing for Party X are really Party Y people who are just using Party X to get into power then doing the old switcheroo. Beware of which label you vote for because it may well be bogus.

      As to your critique of our investigative techniques we have often considered ways of undertaking a valid data exercise that would generate a fair result and we have repeatedly come to the conclusion that this is not possible. Firstly we know enough about data published by Tower Hamlets to know that most of it is unfit for purpose so we only use it when we have no other alternative. The fact that, as you describe (and I have not checked because I am worn out) Cllr. Dockerill has not submitted any timesheets is probably because Cllr. Dockerill also knows that they are meaningless. One reason I leap to that unquantified conclusion is that Cllr. Dockerill is probably the best councillor Wapping ward has had in recent memory. No timesheets? So what? Do you honestly think that the time records submitted by those councillors who just get elected to get the £10k a year allowance submit accurate details of their records? This borough is better served by one Julia Dockerill than 100 of the lazy idiots who just want the allowance and a bit of glory to impress their mates.

      By the same token the fact that a councillor attends a meeting does not mean much. Does the meeting attendance data record the amount of time an individual councillor remains at the meeting? Or if they asked any questions? Or they had read the meeting minutes? Or that they stormed out of the meeting seemingly in a huff on some issue of high principle when in reality they were just bored after they had clocked up another attendance to justify their allowance?

      Even if there was some reliable and accurate way to analyse the efficiency of councillors (Cllr Andrew Wood has a very good take on this if you are interested) I really do not have the time to do anything like this. I spend as much time, if not more, on community issues relating to Wapping and the wider borough than I do researching, writing and publishing LW. I don’t make much of this because I enjoy it, I like to think I can make a difference and am of the firm belief that every resident has the duty to do their bit.

      I am really glad to hear that you feel safe in Wapping and hope this continues. I too address people that I walk past, smile and say hello (like a true normal person) and have chats with people of all ages. I also know that many people, unlike yourself, do feel genuinely apprehensive about walking the streets of Wapping, especially at night but also by day.

      I also only write about 30% (at a guess) of the crime I witness or report to the MPS or become aware of. Which is a shame because if I don’t write about it few people, including yourself, will ever know about it.

      It’s now 8pm and I have been working on LW for 12 hours. That is not unusual. Tomorrow I will be out checking polling stations (even if I dont write about it) and then around 11 pm I will be at the Excel for the count until about 3am.

      Give me a budget of £200k a year, an office, a decent web server and three more staff members (excluding squirrels) and I might be able to produce a publication of higher quality which more closely matches the expectations of some.

      Until then bottom line is that if you don’t like what I do or how I do it then don’t read it. Simple as that. Sorry to be harsh but I have become really good at prioritising my time. it comes with the job.

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