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Published: May 24, 2020

We must educate and inform, not bully and intimidate

This Covid-19 emergency has brought out the best in people, and unfortunately at times the worst.

For many people, the sudden changes in their lives, the removal of certain civil liberties, the sudden closure of facilities that lives had been shaped around and the artificial and unnatural social distancing has proven unbearable. Credit is due to the local, regional and national agencies that had responded so positively and constructively to the inevitable mental health challenges that these changes have introduced.

Here in Melksham I have seen first-hand through my work on the Melksham Community Response Team the impact on many of our local residents, and what heroes so many of them have turned out to be.

Through my work with Young Melksham I have also seen the impact on young people. I have seen the effect that there has been on young people who were getting ready for the transition from school to college or university and the sudden uncertainly the cancellation of exams has brought, I have seen the worry in parents’ eyes as their children are told they are not allowed to see their friends for goodness knows how long, and I have seen and heard the confusion of those young people who are so scared at this sci-fi/horror film plot suddenly becoming a reality around them.

That’s why I have been so pleased that Wiltshire Police have adopted a really sensible and mature approach to dealing with the challenges of lockdown. No multiple arrests here, indeed very few penalty notices issued. Instead a culture of educate and inform.

Even better, when approached by Young Melksham about our team playing a part in that process they welcomed and embraced a partnership effort with trained youth support workers patrolling the community seeking opportunities to find and talk to young people who are out and about rather than punish them.

When I have been out on patrol and spoken directly with young people it has become clear that as the message from central government has become less clear and more confusing for everyone, this is even more so for them. The value of the “inform and educate” agenda is more important now than ever.

So, it was with huge sadness that I read a direct quote from the Leader of Melksham Town Council this morning in which she advocates that the Police “hang about at Melksham Skate Park” as there are “plenty of people you can arrest there”.

It is this sort of irresponsible behaviour on the part of politicians, at all levels, that leads to the disconnect between young people and the “establishment”.

Threatening to arrest people is the tactics of the bully and not the behaviour I would expect to see from a responsible civic leader. Frankly Cllr Fiorelli should be ashamed of saying what she said and should issue a public apology to the Police and the Public and carefully consider if she is the right person to lead the Town Council.

She and her mates created the role of Leader of Melksham Town Council and she, as the first leader, will define what that role is. It is in her hands. Will it be the role of a bully who advocates arresting people who aren’t doing what she wants or will she apologise, resign, and let someone with an ounce of compassion turn it into the role of someone who cares for, and speaks for the people that they represent.

You can always get in touch with Cllr Jon Hubbard

01225 807969
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