The regular ward “PACT” meetings – in which members of the public in each of the four electoral wards of Penarth discuss local problems face-to-face with ward police officers – are to be scrapped and replaced by a single – town-wide – “drop-in” session.
The delphic acronym “PACT” is derived from a police/local authority jargon which is now supposed to mean “Partnerships and Communities Together” – but the term has gone through a number of definitions:-
- Back in 2006 “PACT” was officially said to mean “Preventing Antisocial Crime Together ” – but then the reference to “crime” was dropped.
- It was changed to “Police and Communities Together” – (a term still used by British Transport Police).
- Then it was decided to remove the word “police” from the title and supplant it with the amorphous word “partnerships” so that the title would then read as “Partnerships and Communities Together”.
In practice few people know what the current term, “Partnerships and Communities Together” actually means – and even fewer people now bother to turn-up at the poorly publicised meetings.
The dearth of attendees at local-ward PACT meetings prompted this issue to be unexpectedly raised without any prior notice at this month’s policy and finance committee meeting of Penarth Town Council.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) apologised to members for the fact that the topic had not been included in the official printed agenda for the meeting and therefore councillors did not know this was going to be raised. [PDN Note: Those councillors who had read the Penarth Times would however have already been in the loop as a police notification had already been prematurely published – albeit without the prior agreement of councillors ].
Setting the background, Cllr Roberts said there was very poor attendance at St Augustines Ward PACT meetings and he understood that Cornerswell Ward was the same and that the only ward which had “reasonable numbers” was Stanwell Ward.
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) agreed – saying that only about two or three members of the public attended PACT meetings in his ward.
Cllr Roberts said that in “over the garden wall” discussions with St Augustine’s PSCO Gareth Parry the idea had emerged of replacing the individual ward meetings with a single “town-wide PACT meeting” which would be attended by all the PCSOs in Penarth. Cllr Roberts said PCSO Parry had proposed that – rather than having a formal meeting with an agenda – the meeting should be held as a two-hour “drop-in session” for the whole of Penarth.
Unexpectedly – Cllr Roberts said – without further ado the police had then gone ahead and set up the first meeting which is now duly scheduled for next month. He thought however that the concept was “well worth trying” and asked committee members to support it.
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) thought it was a “good initiative “ and noted there were already “Youth Pact meetings” and “Business Pact Meetings” and the new town-wide PACT meeting would add to “the kaleidoscope of PACT meetings”.
However Cllr Wilson had reservations about the holding such a meeting as a “drop-in session”. Whilst he acknowledged that sometimes it was good for people to have one-to-one conversations with police officers, there were also “matters of general concern” about which there could be a wider discussion towards finding “a way forward”.
Cllr Clive Williams said he was pleased to endorse the new arrangement . He thought that one reason why PACT meetings failed to attract audiences was that a lot of time was spent going over matters which had already been discussed in previous meetings . That often meant that people who wanted to raise a topic had to wait until the end of the meetings to so.
Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) said Cornerswell Ward had “varying attendance” at its PACT meetings – there could be up to 20 people at some of them – but he supported the proposed changes.
The first of the new-style drop-in PACT sessions will be held at Penarth Town Council’s HQ at West House, Stanwell Road on October 10th from 17:00 to 19:00