There's a problem in parts of South Bristol. Bikers tearing up the green spaces - sometimes on stolen bikes, sometimes not. Strictly, policing parkland isn't down to the police, but if they don't tackle the problem no-one will.
Until now, they've been finding the cash (from the Parks budget, I think) to pay officers to put in extra hours to cover the task, and the results have been good, things are pretty well under control. Except.... guess what; cutbacks, austerity, the money's no longer available.
So the helmet's being passed round. It only needs about £500 to keep the problem down in each ward, at least for a while, so that's what the police are asking for. The Parks can't afford the keepers who should do it, and they can't now afford to pay the police. So it's the Neighbourhood Partnerships' piggy-banks that are being raided to keep the service going. In particular, their 'well-being' funds.
Usually, to get money from the well-being fund, each bid must be carefully documented, tested against different criteria and prioritised among other rival bids.
Not this one, though. According to NP minutes, Insp Salmon first introduced the idea at the Filwood, Knowle and Windmill Hill NP on 10th January. They thought about it... and agreed to write to the other S. Bristol NP's suggesting we all chip in £500 per ward.
On the strength of that, the same request was raised on 23rd January in the Brislington NP, where a compliant Committee readily volunteered to pay the police overtime out of their well-being fund.
The next evening it was our turn in Hengrove and Stockwood, where the issue was sprung on us without notice, and we were told that other NPs in S. Bristol had already agreed. There was general agreement that 'Operation Biker' is a worthwhile service, but it was questioned whether the well-being fund is the right and proper source of the cash. The Committee brushed over any doubts. Councillors Doubell and Clark proposed payment from the well-being funds, and fellow-councillors agreed.
So there's a snap decision, short cutting all the usual requirements of a well-being bid, that will skim £1,000 off the money available for community projects in Hengrove and Stockwood. All the councillors seem to be colluding in this abuse of process. The same appears to have happened in Bris.
Next on Inspector Salmon's fundraising tour will be Dundry View, which meets on March 19th. When the meeting papers are published, it will be interesting to see whether the Operation Biker bid has been through the usual assessment channels, or has even been mentioned in the agenda and reports. After all, there's been plenty of time.