The independent Riots Communities and Victims’ Panel came to Brixton this week to hear the views of local people who were affected by the disturbances in August. Their visit on Wednesday was part of a tour of all affected London Boroughs and cities across the country.
Heather Rabbatts CBE, and Simon Marcus, spoke directly to young people, local business owners, shopkeepers, parents and residents during a walkabout of Brixton town centre. They also took part in a discussion with local community and business leaders along with Council Leader Steve Reed, Chief Executive, Derrick Anderson and Borough Commander Nick Ephgrave.
The Panel heard how Lambeth’s community response was among the fastest of all areas affected by the disturbances. Hundreds of volunteers lent a helping hand to assist the council clear up roads and streets immediately after the disturbances in Brixton and Streatham. The borough’s community spirit continued as people spontaneously turned out to help and contacted the council via twitter to ask what more needed to be done throughout the week.
Many more residents attended the council’s ‘volunteer speed dating’ event at the Town Hall in which the council gathered like-minded people who were keen to do their bit to get the borough back on its feet.
The council’s engagement with the local community continued weeks after the disturbances with a series of drop-in sessions in which expert advice was given to local businesses. The Lambeth Business Recovery Surgery workshops provided attendees with an opportunity to learn about the range of services to help them back on their feet including compensation claims and business rates relief. Looters were brought to justice thanks to the boroughs network of CCTV cameras. Further vital intelligence was provided by a ‘virtual ward panel’, in which residents provided information about the riots in an online community safety survey.
The initiative, piloted by Lambeth Met Borough Police in partnership with Lambeth Council, was introduced as part of a six month dispersal zone which provided police with additional powers to combat anti-social behaviour in the Coldharbour Ward which was affected by looters in August. The visit also coincided with a Youth Council Crime Summit which brought young minds from across the borough together to discuss community safety issues and violent crime on Tuesday evening.
Lambeth Council Leader, Cllr Steve Reed, said: “Much of the looting that took place in Lambeth was carried out by young people who are already involved in gangs or known to our youth offending service. We are working hard to reach out to these young people but there are reasons why these public disturbances hit Tottenham and Brixton but not Windsor and Richmond.
“The help for businesses after the riots is very welcome, but we also need an assault on poverty of every kind – not just financial poverty, but poverty of aspiration and poverty of opportunity. To be effective this must be delivered locally, estate by estate, family by family, with the full engagement of the local community – which is what is already happening here in Lambeth.”
Chair of the Panel, Darra Singh, added: “What is clear from this visit is that community spirit is alive and well in Lambeth and the council is doing a great deal to face up to the problems affecting its community rather than hide away from them – but there is no quick fix. The visit, amongst other taking place across the country, is enabling us to start reflecting on what might have caused a small minority to take part in public disturbances and to consider what lessons can be learnt for the future. There is still time to submit any evidence or views so please do write or email us to ensure all those affected have a voice.”
The visit is part of the panel’s commitment to reaching out to affected communities with a view to exploring:
- The motivation for a small minority of people to take in public disturbances
- Why public disturbances happened in some areas but not others
- How public services engages with communities before, during and after the riots
- What motivated people to come together to take civic action to resist riots or to clean up after they had taken place
- How communities can be more socially and economically resilient in the future
- What could have been done differently to prevent or manage the riots.
For information about the Independent Riots Communities and Victims Panel visit http://riotspanel.independent.gov.uk.