Claims made by Councillor David Barton at (21st September) Southport Area Committee that an unnamed officer from Merseyside Police sanctioned his plans for a ‘private army’ to patrol the streets of Southport has prompted a senior Lib Dem councillor to call for an inquiry.
Birkdale Councillor Simon Shaw is Vice-Chair of the Merseyside Police Panel which oversees the work of the Police Commissioner. He was written to the Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, asking her to ensure that “Merseyside Police investigate to establish who is telling the truth here.”
Last week suspended Conservative councillor David Barton announced his controversial plan for a ‘private army’ to patrol
Southport’s streets and this provoked much discussion at
the Area Committee meeting.
Local police inspectors attending the meeting expressed their concerns about the proposal and said that they had not been consulted. However Cllr Barton then proceeded to read out a prepared statement in which he claimed that Merseyside Police had “sent out a detective from head office” who allegedly told him that “there is no issue with adopting this approach.”
However suspicions were raised when Cllr David Barton refused to give the name of the officer who he claimed had sanctioned the move, saying “it would be inappropriate at this time to disclose that officer's name”, despite Cllr Shaw asking him twice.
Cllr Shaw condemned the secrecy, saying: “Cllr Barton’s claims about what this ‘secret policeman’ said are highly dubious. As he is implying that someone in the police is not telling the truth, I think it is essential that his claims are fully investigated.”
“In particular I am concerned about his bizarre jibe addressed to the local police inspectors who attended the Area Committee when he said ‘if you don't know about it, maybe there's a reason why not’. It’s all very suspect.”
“That’s why I have written to Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy, advising her of the facts and asking her to ensure that Merseyside Police investigate who, exactly, is telling the truth here.”
The following is a transcript of Cllr David Barton’s prepared statement:
“I have read Merseyside Police's and
BID's comments where it is claimed that they knew nothing about security
patrols. I can inform you however that the Force did send out a detective
from head office - if you don't know about it, maybe there's a reason why not -
I can however assure you that discussion was had on this very matter. The
reply I received was that there is no issue with adopting this approach to
tackling anti-social behaviour and that anyone can have a security firm on the
proviso that they are fully vetted and licensed. It would be
inappropriate at this time to disclose that officer's name; it is not the time
to discuss a private conversation of an operational nature. It is
strictly speaking a contract between local businesses and the security
firm. And the response to Southport BID:
with all due respect, sir, you have had over 18 months to deal with this issue
of anti-social behaviour.”
Following Simon's intervention a statement was issued by the small rump of Tory councillors left in Southport:
Cllr Harry Bliss, also Chairman of Southport Conservatives, says ”Cllr Jones, Ball and myself and the Southport Conservative Association are disappointed with the recent actions of Independent Councillor, David Barton and his unwillingness to take expert advice.
We are disappointed that Cllr Barton decided not to enter into any sort of consultation with those responsible for securing the safety of our town. We did not have any prior knowledge either”.
He continued “Rather than just launch this ‘private’ initiative, we believe a consultation should have taken place to identify any specific problems and then agree the best way to tackle them”.
Cllr Jones added “We wish to make it very clear that we do not support or approve of the actions taken by Cllr Barton. We believe the safety of residents, visitors and businesses is a priority. We will do our utmost to gain the correct support that is needed to make this happen. We are meeting with the necessary organisations to ensure everyone is safe within Southport”.