Objective: To update Members on the performance of this service
Bernadette Reed (Senior Environmental Health Officer), Solace Police Officer and Case Officer
Bernadette Reed, Senior Environmental Health Officer, summarised her discussion paper, which sought to explain the structure and objectives of Solace and gave an overview of its performance across the last year. Solace was a multi-agency team operating across Gloucestershire that primarily aimed to reduce repeat incidents of antisocial behaviour (ASB). CBC had signed up to the partnership in 2018, originally as a three year commitment, which was extended for another year due to Covid. In February 2022, its partners agreed to make it a permanent arrangement and to provide permanent funding.
Each council had a case officer (CBC’s being Lisa Jones), a police officer and community support officer seconded from the police. Each team had an overarching team leader, with Cheltenham’s having been recently recruited. They worked closely with officers whose portfolios overlapped with antisocial behaviour, including public protection, the neighbourhood team and environmental protection. The partnership was constantly evolving and seeking improvement, focusing on a number of shared priorities, the most important of which was cases that posed a high risk to the victim and had a high impact on people and the community. Part of their current work was building data to back up solid decision-making, and responding to the rise in cases since the end of lockdown, which was to be expected.
The team had various different powers which naturally differed from those afforded to the police and neighbourhood team. These powers were flexible to try and ensure the best possible outcomes, with enforcement only pursued out when there was persistent and continuing ASB, or when people refused to engage. The paper outlined the specific options and sanctions available to officers, though the majority of cases were dealt with through advice and engagement. They were also pursuing a number of civil injunctions and closure orders, and had recourse to use the Community Trigger if necessary.
At the moment, only Cheltenham and Gloucester were incorporated into Solace, but they were involved in positive conversations with other districts like Tewkesbury, the Forest of Dean and Cotswold District Council with regard to joining the partnership. Any further development of the partnership would be subject to the approval of the governance board.
One Member queried the number of unreported incidents. They had recently met with the Police and Crime Commissioner to discuss ASB, and noted that only 18 cases of public urination had been reported in Pittville Park in the last year, which was clearly an underestimate. They were also conscious of particular areas like hate crime where many cases were not reported. Which crime figures were being used to underpin their data? Another Member asked how extensive the data collected on perpetrators was. The Senior Environmental Health Officer responded that it was certainly a work in progress tackling a complicated overall picture, and not every incident would be captured, but their figures were based on police data. She would be happy to provide Members with the specific data they wanted captured
One Member asked how long the team leader role had been vacant before the new hire, and who had led the team in their absence. The Senior Environmental Health Officer responded that the previous team leader had left in February for a job at the council, and in the meantime she had led the team herself. The new team leader would be in post in six weeks’ time.
One Member asked whether the figures regarding 999 calls encompassed all those made to Gloucestershire Constabulary or just those referred to Solace. The Senior Environmental Health Officer confirmed it was the latter.
One Member asked how Solace reached the repeat offenders in the town that councillors were familiar with. The Senior Environmental Health Officer stressed the importance of engaging and building relationships with them, and if necessary, the pursuit of ASBOs or injunctions to reduce the negative impact they had on the town.
One Member was concerned by the post-lockdown increase in ASB, and asked whether the resources at Solace’s disposal were sufficient to deal with the issue. The Senior Environmental Health Officer acknowledged the scale of the issue, and emphasised that Solace sought to bridge the gap between the police and the council. In terms of resources, their dedicated and hard-working officers did well with what they had, though they could always do more with more.
Louis Krog (Head of Public Protection and DEPLO) added that the data in the report only reflected Solace casework, which comprised a small proportion of the total cases – many of which were dealt with through prosecution or not actioned at all. The second phase of Solace’s organisational review would cover operational issues and give them a chance to look at how resources were allocated. He also emphasised that Solace did not work in isolation, and it might be helpful for Members to have a broader overview of how everything fed into it.
The Executive Director of Place and Communities stressed the value of joined-up processes like Solace in increasing organisational effectiveness.
The Chair thanked officers for their report and responses to Member questions, and for the work they were doing.