Following last week’s post from the chief executive of Haringey, this week we have we have the reflections of Barbara Spicer, chief executive of Salford. I am grateful to Barbara for writing for this blog and I find Barbara’s perspective particularly interesting. As well as being chief executive of Salford Council, Barbara is also chief executive of the Greater Manchester police authority and, therefore, has an immediate insight into the policing issues across the city as a whole. This makes Barbara’s claim that there were significant differences between the demographic and psychological profile of rioters in Salford compared to Manchester especially interesting. I’m not aware of this point having had much mainstream coverage put it certainly punctures the idea that the riots were a common phenomenon driven by a single policy failure (such as “culture” or “cuts”) and supports a more nuanced view of them, not just as multi-causal, but also as varied and distinct from each other.
Here’s what Barbara has to say:
“Like a lot of you, we’ve had a manic few days here in Salford. For me having a joint role as Chief Executive of the City Council and the Police has been particularly challenging.
But what I’ve been dealing with is nothing compared with what the police had to contend with when they arrived at Salford precinct on Tuesday. I have met with a lot of them since the riots and hearing what they faced that night is really humbling.
What hasn’t really come out in the news is how different the riots have been in the different parts of the country. For us and Manchester the differences were all the more noticeable because the cities are so close to one another. Despite there being only two miles between the two sites of the riots, the individuals involved and their intentions were worlds apart.
In Salford the focus was very much on violence rather than theft, the rioters were older and we believe a lot of them were from Organised Crime Groups. We’ve been working with the police for some time and are successfully cracking down on organised crime in the city, and they may well have seen this as their chance to hit back at the authorities.
But we won’t let them win. Everyone here at Salford City Council is committed to bringing these thugs to justice and we’re working closely with the police to publicise the images they have of offenders.
Another step we’re taking in Salford is to take legal action against any tenants convicted of taking part in the riots, with the intention of evicting them from their council homes. People who have so little respect for their local community do not deserve social housing and need to understand their actions do have consequences.
This has been welcomed by the vast majority of people living in the city, who are pleased to see us taking such robust action. They are the people I met on Wednesday morning when they turned up to help council officers clean up the precinct after the riots, refusing to let the criminals win.
At times like this it is always heart warming to see the true community spirit emerge. Local councillors here have been absolutely fantastic working with residents and helping them to get the city back to normality again. It really does make you proud.
Another thing I was delighted to hear this week is that all of our looked after children were safely back in their children’s homes by 8pm on the night of the riots. As corporate parents that was a huge relief for us and made us immensely proud of them for staying out of trouble.
Finally, I would just like to pay tribute to a few of the teams who really stood out as making a difference. Businesses told us that they had expected not to be able to access their premises with burnt out cars in the streets. But our Environmental Services Team was on site first thing on Wednesday morning and by 10am the shopping precinct was completely clear of debris. We had local businesses from across the city contacting us with offers of help. The council’s Business Services Team has been working with the businesses affected this week, many of them small family owned companies, to get them back on their feet again.
This crisis has really shown the best and the worst of all of the cities affected, but the good has by far outweighed the bad. The public reaction from across the country shows that we are not prepared to take this lying down and the harsh sentences that have already been passed to deal with the rioters will hopefully be the warning they need to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”