"They've actually given up asking communities what their priorities are, because everything the community wants they can't deliver..."
It was never scientific. And it never involved masses of people. But at least the Greater Manchester Police Neighbourhood Survey had some real people in Salford giving their perceptions on everything from drug dealing to anti-social behaviour, to whether they feel they can influence decisions made in their area.* Now, they are not even being asked; until the last minute.
The GM Police Neighbourhood Survey ceased in December 2016, and after that, there was no 'perception data' at all. Instead, Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, and Beverley Hughes, his Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime, are developing a Police and Crime Plan (PCP) for Greater Manchester in which the community has been totally excluded initially. All residents will only be asked for their views once a draft is published in December.
Earlier this year, a survey went out to 'stakeholders', including the police itself, Salford City Council, NHS, housing associations and third sector organisations, inviting officers "to provide insights on local priorities where you work (your perception of residents' views on community safety, and comments on the area more broadly)...
"This survey is only being distributed to neighbourhood practitioners" the form added "It is not a survey of the general public."
The survey asked 'stakeholders' to "relate your perception of residents' views" on all sorts of topics, from fear of crime and drug dealing, to litter, 'nuisance neighbours' and 'problems with homeless people'.
Strangely, the survey also questioned the officers about their perceptions of 'democracy' and 'free speech' in the community, and asked how strongly people get involved in "Trying to stop the closure of a local service or amenity" and "Trying to stop something happening in my local area".
One of the 'reform principles' highlighted in the survey was "Behaviour change in our communities that builds independence and supports residents to be in control" ...it then ironically asked the officers where this 'residents control' should sit in order of priority.
The form states that the "Key findings from this survey will be used to help refresh the PCP" adding that "Public consultation will be undertaken as part of the broader process to refresh the PCP."
One community worker who has seen an early outline of the PCP findings but wished to remain anonymous, told the Salford Star: "They're not community priorities they are practitioners' priorities. They've actually given up asking communities what their priorities are, because everything the community wants they can't deliver – more police on the streets, their bins emptying, better public spaces. So they've moved the goalposts. And it's obvious what the practitioners are going to say – anything that means they don't have to do something
"They're asking about community cohesion but have got answers from practitioners who, nine times out of ten, don't live in these communities" they added "They've identified all the things that make their life easier but not necessarily what will make the lives better for people who live in community. And once this has been agreed it goes back to the community – but how can they do that when it's not the community's priorities?"
Youth worker, Graham Cooper, also slammed the survey for being discriminatory towards young people. The survey explicitly singles out for community concerns 'Youths/teenagers/groups hanging about on the streets' ...'youths kicking/ throwing/playing football in inappropriate areas'... 'Youth gangs/violence'...
"Why are we still using discriminatory questions against young people in that survey?" he asks "It should be illegal. If you put questions about any other demographic group you'd get sued for discrimination because you're generalising. Yet for young people it's different.
"It's wrong" he adds "Young people are the only group they ever put in these surveys. If you ask young people what's wrong they'd probably have a go at the local authority."
The GMCA (Greater Manchester Combined Authority) didn't wish to comment on the survey and draft Police and Crime Plan but did confirm that it will be published in early December, and will then be put out for a consultation with the community.
* The last Greater Manchester Police Neighbourhood Survey found that 44% of people in Salford didn't feel they could influence decisions made in their area.
Salford Council also used to run The Big Listening, where random households were surveyed about attitudes towards the city and services. This was also subsequently scrapped.